With One Day to Go, Election Still Up in the Air in Britain

BY Larisa Epatko  May 5, 2010 at 4:02 PM EDT


Conservatives’ David Cameron campaigning in Britain. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Britain’s major party leaders spent the final hours leading up to Thursday’s general elections campaigning for the support of an estimated 4 million undecided voters.

Gordon Brown of the Labor Party seeks to remain prime minister, and his two main challengers are the Conservatives’ David Cameron and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.

“It’s still anybody’s call as to what’s going to happen,” GlobalPost’s correspondent in London, Michael Goldfarb, told us. “The most recent public opinion poll, published Wednesday, showed an astonishing 40 percent of people likely to vote have yet to make up their minds.”

The surge Clegg was riding following his well-regarded performance in the first of three televised debates appears to be ebbing, according to polls, and the core Labor vote is solidifying and even improving, Goldfarb observed. “So what we’re looking at not one party having a majority of seats once the ballots are counted, and we’re looking at a hung parliament.”

Britain has no written constitution, just centuries of traditions and precedents. By tradition, Brown, the sitting prime minister, has a right to try and form a government first, even building to a coalition with other parties if he doesn’t win the most number of seats. “But he will only have a certain amount of time to do that, and if he cannot,” then other parties could try to form coalitions or rule as a minority government, said Goldfarb.

“This is where it’s going to get interesting, because basically the establishment is going to negotiate among themselves and declare a winner that way. There isn’t a very clear set of rules as to how this is going to work out,” he said.

Polls close in London at 10 p.m. on Thursday. We’ll bring you the results here on the Rundown. And you can see a report from Simon Marks on the contest on Wednesday’s NewsHour.