Britain heads for hung parliament


London, : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a bold bid to cling to power early Friday even though the opposition Conservatives could emerge as the biggest party from the general election, according to exit polls.

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Speaking after his re-election in his constituency in Scotland, Brown said it was his duty to secure strong and stable government in Britain.

“The outcome of this country’s vote is not yet known, but my duty to the country, coming out of this election, is to play my part in Britain having a strong, stable and principled government, able to lead Britain into sustained economic recovery,” he said.

The result of the election is expected later Friday.

Brown, whose ruling Labour Party lost around 100 parliamentary seats, according to exit polls, was speaking after his re-election in his Scottish constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

His remarks were seen as underlining his intention to attempt to cling to power even though the opposition Conservatives have emerged from the election as the biggest party, according to exit polls.

Downing Street sources said earlier that Brown would try to form a coalition government if there was to be a hung Parliament with no clear majorities as a result of the election.

He would argue that the sitting government has the first right to form an administration, even if it is not the biggest party.

Exit polls released after polling stations closed Thursday evening predicted a hung parliament, in which neither of Britain’s two main parties would gain an overall majority.

However, key Labour ministers immediately made clear that they hoped to hold on to power by wooing the smaller Liberal Democratic Party for an alliance to keep the Conservatives out of power.

The exit polls, based on surveys of 18,000 voters, showed a disappointing outcome for the Liberal Democrats, whose leader Nick Clegg had been declared the undisputed star of the four-week election campaign.

The exit polls gave the David Cameron-led Conservatives 307 seats, 19 short of an outright majority. The Labour Party would win 255 seats, compared with 356 in 2005, and the Liberals were given 59 seats, remaining behind expectations.

The result, if confirmed, could leave Cameron seeking to lead a minority government or asking the Liberal Democrats and other smaller parties for support.

As results are being counted through the night, and if Labour does better than the exit polls suggest, a coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats could be possible.

Under the unwritten rules of Britain’s constitution, the sitting prime minister has the first option to ask Queen Elizabeth II to form a government.

However, convention also states that the party with the most seats has the “moral” right to ask to form a government.

Leading Labour figures immediately made clear that the party was in no mood to concede defeat.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, the party’s chief strategist, wooed the Liberals for an alliance to “keep the Conservatives out”.

Mandelson said that electoral reform in Britain, from the current first-past-the-post system to proportional representation, was “overdue”.

A change in the voting system, which has in the past benefited the two main parties, has been a Liberal key demand and was at the heart of the campaign.

Markets showed signs of nervousness ahead of the elections, amid predictions of an inconclusive outcome that could lead to weeks of horse-trading over the formation of a new government.

Polling day was overshadowed by the crash of a light aircraft carrying Nigel Farage, a candidate for the anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

The 46-year-old former leader of UKIP, who is also a member of the European Parliament, escaped the crash of the two-seater aircraft with minor head injuries, a party spokesman said.

The accident was believed to have been caused by an election banner the plane was towing, urging a UKIP vote, becoming entangled with the aircraft.