British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party appears on course to lose her parliamentary majority in the UK general election, according to a shock exit poll compiled for the UK’s main television broadcasters.
If the results are confirmed, it will be a huge embarrassment for May, who called a snap election in April in the hope of gaining an even greater majority of seats to give her a stronger mandate for upcoming Brexit negotiations.
General election 2017: Live updates
The poll suggests the Conservatives will secure only 314 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, the lower house of the UK’s Parliament. The main opposition Labour Party is tipped to win 266 seats.
This would mean a loss of 17 seats for the Conservatives, and a gain of 34 seats for Labour. The Scottish National Party is also forecast to take a hit, winning 34 seats, 22 fewer than in the last election.
In Britain’s Parliamentary system, if a party wins 326 seats in the House of Commons, its leader becomes prime minister and can form a government.
Prime Minister Theresa May and main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The value of the British pound tumbled 1.6%, to $1.27, immediately after the exit poll results came out.
The situation where no party has a majority is known as a hung Parliament and could plunge the country into political uncertainty amid talks of forming a coalition.
The exit poll result is particularly humiliating for May, who had begun the campaign with healthy ratings — a number of polls gave her party a 20-point lead when she called the election.
Exit polls in Britain are not official results, but they have been accurate in the past.
British ballots are counted by hand, and first results are expected soon, about an hour after polls closed at 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). Full results are likely in the the early hours of Friday morning.
It became a difficult campaign for May.
Predictions of Conservative success became more modest as the party’s campaign faltered following a series of missteps.
May came under fire for a controversial policy on who should pay for the cost of care for the elderly, and for her record as Home Secretary, a role she held for six years under previous PM David Cameron.
Under her tenure in the role that is responsible for homeland security among other things, police numbers across the UK were reduced by 20,000.
Terror attacks in London and Manchester made security an unexpectedly dominant factor in the election campaign.
There are 650 seats in the House of Commons, so any party hoping to govern with an overall majority needs to secure at least 326, in theory. In practice, this number can be slightly lower, since Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein MPs traditionally refuse to take up the seats they win.
If a party wins the most seats but fails to gain an overall majority, it can still lead but will struggle to pass laws. It often chooses instead to form a coalition.
The last time there was a hung Parliament in the UK was in 2010 when the Conservative Party won the most votes but not a majority.
They banded with the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition, which lasted until the 2015 election.
If May is unable to secure a governing majority through a coalition or on a vote-by-vote basis, she could be forced to resign, causing more tumult in the country, following the Brexit result last year.
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