News : UK election: What happens next?


London, England (CNN) -- The closest-fought UK election in decades will result in a hung parliament in which neither of the two biggest parties has a clear majority that would allow it to pass legislation.



With 649 out of 650 election results announced, David Cameron's center-right Conservatives have 306 seats, falling short of a certain majority in the House of Commons.





So who will form the next government?



No one really knows yet which party will form the next government and there is great uncertainty about the immediate future, causing sterling to fall against other currencies.



There is no written constitution in Britain, but convention has it that a sitting prime minister has the right to try to form a coalition government before the opposition leader.



Whatever happens, a PM remains in power until his or her party is defeated in the Commons or admits defeat and travels to Buckingham Palace to resign to Queen Elizabeth, who is the head of state. In that case, the monarch would invite the leader of the biggest party, which is now the Conservatives, to try to form a government.



When will the uncertainty be resolved?



The horse-trading between the parties is likely to continue for several days. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will do everything he can to put together a minority government. On Friday he offered to hold talks with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on the formation of a new government, if his discussions with Cameron fail to reach an agreement.



Brown said that while Clegg and Cameron should have time to told talks, he stressed that all the parties had a responsibility to make the outcome of the election "work for the national good."



Cameron meanwhile also made overtures to Clegg -- despite perceived ideological obstacles which could impede the parties' ability to cooperate -- offering the Liberal Democrat leader a "big, open and comprehensive offer."



Can Brown stay in power?



Just possibly. Labour has won 258 seats, so with the 57 seats won by the Liberal Democrats, Brown could try to form a coalition with other smaller parties, such as nationalists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein does not take up its four seats in the Commons, nor does the Speaker vote, so in fact Brown might be able to stay in power with a coalition of fewer than 326 MPs.



Is this likely?



The numbers don't seem quite there for Labour and the Lib Dems to form a stable government and pass legislation, according to CNN political contributor Robin Oakley. However Brown can offer the holy grail of a referendum on electoral reform for the Lib Dems, who had a poor election result despite leader Nick Clegg's impressive performance in the televised leadership debates.



In his statement outside Downing Street on Friday, Brown said he believed discussions on a "fairer voting system" were "essential" and said he was committed to holding a referendum on voting reform.



The current first-past-the-post electoral system is heavily weighted against the smaller parties so this might help Clegg persuade his party to join Labour in government, Oakley added. However, his party has a locking system to prevent its leader unilaterally joining a coalition that was made when former leader Paddy Ashdown was suspected of doing the same with ex-PM Tony Blair.



So would Clegg join a Labour Cabinet?



The Liberal Democrats are broadly centrist and might be expected to join Labour. Clegg said only last week that "historically, Labour and Liberal Democrats are two wings of a progressive tradition in British politics."



However he has failed to hide his antipathy to Brown, saying he would not allow him to remain "squatting" in Downing Street. He may insist that the price for joining a minority government is a new Labour leader who would then become prime minister. This situation would be heavily criticized as unconstitutional by the Conservatives.



Could the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats do a deal?



Cameron floated the possibility of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats Friday, saying the "best thing for Britain now is a new government that works together in the national interest."



He emphasized areas where the two parties agree, including education reform and scrapping plans for national ID cards, while drawing red lines on defense and the economy.



But Cameron remained vague on the matter of electoral reform; a key Liberal Democrat concern in any coalition deal.



How often does Britain have coalition governments?



They are very rare in British politics. Not since 1974 has Britain had a "hung parliament" where no one party has a majority.



Source SKYNEWS


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