Polls Open in Britain’s Knife-Edge Election
May 7,London: Polls opened Thursday in Britain’s closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband’s Labour and a host of smaller parties.
Millions of Britons will vote at polling stations located everywhere from shipping containers to churches and pubs between 0600 GMT and 2100 GMT.Exit polls will be released at 2100 GMT and most results will emerge overnight, although the final tally of seats will not become clear until Friday afternoon.If, as expected, neither the Conservatives nor Labour win a clear majority, they will start days and possibly weeks of negotiations with smaller parties to try and build a bloc of around 326 seats.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which wants Scotland to split from Britain, looks set to win most seats north of the border and a strong position in the talks.The new government, whether led by the Conservatives or Labour, would face its first big test when lawmakers vote on its legislative programme after the Queen’s Speech on May 27.
While a new government usually has to win that vote to survive, the situation could be more flexible this time if numbers are tight.
The election is being watched closely around the World due to the consequences it could have for the standing of Britain, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and nuclear-armed NATO state.
Experts say the US, with whom Britain likes to boast of a “special relationship”, is already wary that defence cuts are affecting its ability to contribute to military operations as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan.Another potential issue for Britain’s global status is that Cameron has promised a referendum on whether Britain, the World’s fifth biggest economy, should leave the EU by 2017 if the Conservatives win.While polling suggests Britons would currently reject a Brexit, a lengthy referendum campaign reopening the scars of the country’s uneasy relationship with Europe could change that.
The consequences of the election will start to become clear on Friday but could take far longer than that to play out in full.
The Oslo Times