Conservative leader David Cameron said Gordon Brown's Labour government had "lost its mandate" as partial results of Thursday’s vote showed the Conservatives winning the most seats, but not an absolute majority, making a hung parliament likely.
UK General Election Results
Conservative: 306 seats
36.1% of the vote
Labour: 258 seats
29.1% of the vote
Liberal Democrats: 57 seats
23.0% of the vote
Seats needed for a majority: 326
649 of 650 seats declared
With 94% of the votes counted by 11.15am Paris time (GMT+2) the Conservatives held 291 seats against 247 for the ruling Labour Party.
An exit poll, which surveyed around 20,000 people out of some 45 million eligible voters in Britain, suggested the centre-right Conservatives were likely to win 305 seats and Labour 255 in the lower House of Commons, both short of the 326 needed for a parliamentary majority.
What happens next remains uncertain. Under British law, incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown gets the first chance to form a government, but analysts said the most likely scenario was a Conservative minority government.
Labour would struggle to form a coalition with third-placed Liberal Democrats, who performed badly in Thursday’s vote after a perceived surge in pre-election popularity, since the two parties’ combined forecast seats would still be short of a majority.
The Liberal Democrats, who had been expected to perform strongly, had only 51 seats at 11.15am.
The prospect of the first inconclusive election since 1974 and uncertainty about who would form the next government troubled already febrile financial markets, which prefer a clear and decisive victory and a firm mandate from the election winners.
Markets fear a stalemate could lead to political paralysis, hampering efforts to tackle the nation's spiralling debt and secure recovery from the worst recession since World War II.
Results from the 650 seats rolled in against a backdrop of global market turmoil following a surge sell-off on Wall Street and the fall-out from the Greek debt crisis.
The pound slumped against the dollar, while equity futures tumbled and gilt futures soared, with markets fretting over the uncertainty but more concerned by turmoil on other exchanges.
Voters turned away
A sense of confusion was heightened by reports that hundreds of voters had been turned away from crowded polling stations across the country when voting ended at 2100 GMT.
An unexpectedly high voter turnout caused problems in some constituencies, with voters turned away from some busy polling stations. Election officials said they were unable to cope with the paperwork prompted by the long queues.
Britain's electoral watchdog said it had launched an investigation, raising the possibility of legal challenges to some results.
The only certainty so far is that whoever becomes the Prime Minister will have to impose painful spending cuts to deal with a record budget deficit that is running at more than 11 percent of GDP.
Independent think-tanks have accused all the parties of failing to be open with voters about the scale of cuts that will be needed to restore public finances, meaning any government could face a plunge in popularity early on.
Carl Emmerson, deputy director of independent UK think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told FRANCE 24 that whatever the outcome of the vote, “the electorate is in for a shock.”
Date created : 2010-05-07