UK faces hung parliament; Corbyn calls for May to step down

  • The U.K. voted in a general election on Thursday and so far, PM May’s ruling Conservative party is in the lead.
  • An exit poll released on Thursday night indicated the Conservatives would win the most seats but lose its parliamentary majority.
  • Results for key seats continue to roll in.

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With the bulk of seats now declared in the general election, the U.K. now faces a hung parliament.

Among the announced seats so far, Prime Minister Theresa May‘s ruling Conservative party has won 309 while the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has gained 258. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party has won 34 seats, the Liberal Democrats are at 12 and the Democratic Unionist Party has secured 10. Voter turnout was at 68.6 percent, according to the BBC.

There are 650 seats in total — 326 are required for a party to secure a parliamentary majority.

Reuters calculations on Friday also indicated May could no longer win a parliamentary majority.

A hung parliament — a situation in which multiple parties hammer out a coalition government — arises when neither party secures the 326 seats needed for a majority. Investors aren’t thrilled about that situation as passing legislation can be difficult with two parties that each hold strong political priorities.

Earlier, a BBC exit poll had indicated the Conservatives would win the greatest number of seats but lose its majority in Parliament — a scenario expected to hurt upcoming Brexit negotiations as well as May’s political future, according to strategists.

The British pound dropped sharply in Asian trade on Friday, briefly falling below the $1.27 handle to a multi-month low. The currency has since recovered to linger around $1.2759.

‘May should step down’

After winning his seat back in Islington, North London, early on Friday, 68 year-old Corbyn called for May to step down. “People have said they have quite enough of austerity politics,” he said in a speech. “The PM called this election because she wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence.”

Betting exchange Betfair said that Corbyn was the favorite to become U.K. Prime Minister, Reuters reported.

In a speech on Friday, May said it will be incumbent on her party to offer stability if Conservatives win the most seats.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon called the early results “disastrous” for PM May and expressed disappointment over the SNP’s performance, Reuters said.

Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. London time Thursday and closed at 10:00 p.m, with the main flurry of results coming in after 2.00 a.m. London time Friday.

‘A big miscalculation’

On April 18, PM May surprised onlookers by calling a snap election— a decision aimed at strengthening her mandate to see the country through a hard Brexit. At that point, the Conservatives were polling ahead of Labour but as the campaign progressed, the polls narrowed sharply.

The Conservative campaign has attempted to focus on withdrawal from the European Union, repeating a mantra that only it can offer a “strong and stable” government as negotiations with Brussels heat up. This strategy has worked to an extent, with polls on leadership consistently backing May over Corbyn as a more trusted leader.

Corbyn has said he will honor the U.K.’s decision to leave but he’s widely expected to push for a soft Brexit and retain the benefits of the single market, a tariff free trading bloc for E.U. members.

“We have seen two dramatic political miscalculations by two conservative (U.K.) PMs in a short time span, it’s incredible,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Terror comes to the fore

The U.K. has suffered three separate incidents of “terror attacks” in just three months, pushing the issue of security to the fore of the election as both main parties accused each other of weakness.

Corbyn was criticized in the media for appearing weak on a “shoot to kill” policy and has apologized for statements made in the past describing Middle East factions Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends.”

Conservatives also felt a backlash. In her previous role as Home Secretary, May was responsible for cutting of the U.K.’s police force numbers — a decision that many believed put the nation at a greater risk of terror.

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