It’s been a long night in the United Kingdom and results are still unclear, but exit polls suggest that the Conservative Party will fall short of an outright majority in Parliament:
LONDON — A revamped Conservative Party was poised to win the most seats in Britain’s closely fought elections early Friday but was falling short of the absolute majority needed to form a government and head off the prospect of the most divided Parliament here in a generation.
Exit polls and early results suggested the country would face a potentially messy period of uncertainty over who is to govern it. The Conservatives were projected to win an estimated 305 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, according to exit polls by a consortium of TV networks. With a third of districts reporting, early results also pointed to a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives picking up some seats but failing to deliver hoped-for gains in others. The incumbent Labor Party appeared to have suffered its biggest loss of seats since 1931, while the insurgency of the dark-horse party, the Liberal Democrats, had apparently fizzled.
If the trend holds up as tallies continue to roll in Friday, it could end 13 years of rule by a Labor Party deeply wounded by two wars, a brutal economic crisis and the unpopularity of its leader, Prime Minister Gordon Brown. That result could prop up David Cameron, the 43-year-old Conservative Party leader, as head of a minority government vulnerable to collapse in the coming months — a prospect that could complicate his pledges to start slashing the yawning deficit here that rivals the one in Greece.
Officials from the ruling Labor Party did not suggest publicly that they were preparing to give up power. In the absence of a Conservative majority, Brown, as the incumbent prime minister, would have the right to try first to forge a coalition government, not seen here since the 1970s.
To do that, he would need to secure the support of the Liberal Democrats, headed by Nick Clegg, who soared to prominence after Britain’s first U.S.-style election debates. But in Thursday’s voting, the Liberal Democrats appeared to fare worse than pre-election polling had predicted. Exit polls showed them barely holding on to their current number of seats in Parliament, but Clegg nevertheless retained the power to be the election’s kingmaker.
If Brown fails, Cameron could also seek to form a coalition, most likely with the aid of regional parties in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales that may demand protection from looming budget cuts in return for support.
Cameron sounded a cautious note, noting that his party had made its most significant gains in 80 years but stopping short of claiming an outright victory. He said the country would have to await the full results but asserted it was already clear that the Labor government has lost its mandate to govern.
Brown, winning his seat in Scotland by a landslide, offered a retrospective early Friday of his achievements — fighting the financial crisis, protecting the National Health Service and defending national security in overseas wars. He did not directly address his future but said, “It is my duty to play my part in creating a strong and stable government,” suggesting that he might seek a coalition or, alternatively, step aside if he cannot.
As of now, with 400 of the 650 seats in the results are:
Conservatives – 200 seats (+51)
Labour – 151 seats (-45)
Lib Dems – 29 seats (-5)
Others – 25 seats (+1)
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