Britain goes to polls in election dubbed unpredictable

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Millions of Britons are heading to polls in an election analysts say will likely result in a hung parliament – a result in which no single party holds a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

Polls across the country of 65 million people opened at 0600 GMT and will close at 2100 GMT.

The major parties contesting the election include the Conservative party, which formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats at the last election in 2010, ending Labour’s 13-year grip on power.

But small parties – including the Scottish National Party and the right-wing UK Independence Party – are also contesting the election in what Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee has called an “explosion of parties all vying for authority”.

Ballots will be cast in around 50,000 polling stations dotted around the country, including in unusual places like pubs, caravans and even garages.

With no party likely to win a majority, analysts said assembling a government could take days or weeks, although counting the votes takes a matter of hours.

“This election looks likely to shatter the two-party system of government that has existed in Britain since the end of the second World War,” Lee reported from London.

Since 1945, political power in the UK has changed hands from Labour to the Conservatives but that pattern ended in 2010 when the Conservatives failed to win a majority.

The economy, the National Health Service and immigration have turned out to be the major issues in the campaign.

Prime Minister David Cameron has focused on headline numbers after five years of budget cuts designed to shrink the deficit and bolster growth.

Although the British economy boasts one of the fastest growth rates among large industrialised nations, Labour’s leader Ed Miliband is urging voters to look deeper, arguing the topline figures do not tell the whole story.

Real wages are below pre-crisis levels, he says, and employment figures have been inflated by low-skill jobs, and rising numbers of people are turning to food banks to make ends meet.

Miliband has focused the debate on inequality, saying the recovery has not reached working families. He is promising to increase taxes on the wealthiest members of society.

If the election results are not decisive as widely expected, negotiations between the parties could start immediately.

Analysts have said protracted talks to form a coalition government could rattle financial markets, with the pound taking a pummelling.

“There will be a strong civil service presence saying: ‘Do you look at the markets? You had better get a grip. You’d better work something out,'” said Leeds University political scientist David Seawright.

 

Posted on May, 7 2015

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