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Cameron and Miliband in tight race as UK voters flock to smaller parties

Britons will vote on Thursday in the country's first general election in five years. But opinion polls suggest neither of the two largest parties -- Conservative and Labour -- will win a majority of seats. And for either side, forming a coalition government may not be so simple. Hari Sreenivasan reports on the political divide in the United Kingdom.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Across the pond in the United Kingdom, Election Day is just hours away.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports on a race that's too close to call and one that could determine the U.K.'s future as a member of the European Union.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It's the coveted front door British political leaders are vying for, 10 Downing Street, home of the prime minister.

    Whether conservative David Cameron will go on living there after tomorrow's election, and which party will control the House of Commons, is anyone's guess. But in the final flurry of campaigning on this election eve, it was clear there's deep discontent and deep division among voters.

  • MAN:

    The Conservatives are making a reasonable job of sorting out the mess that Labor got us in, but they could do a bit more to help the ordinary working people.

  • MAN:

    I'm afraid, like most people, I have decided Westminster needs a complete cleanup. It's not working for the people. It's working for the bankers, the very rich.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The short campaign season kicked off in April, with all 650 seats in the Commons up for grabs, and predictions of a deadlock, or hung Parliament, come Friday.

    In order to govern by itself, a party needs an outright majority of 326 seats. But opinion polls suggest neither of the two largest parties, Conservative and Labor, will get there on their own. David Cameron's Tories have blamed Britain's troubles on the Labor government that preceded them.

  • DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:

    I feel like the fireman. I feel like the firefighter hosing down the burning building. And there's Ed Miliband, the arsonist, the guy that lit the building on fire and saying — saying, you ought to go a bit faster, you ought to do a bit more.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And Labor Leader Miliband has answered in kind.

  • ED MILIBAND, Leader, Labour Party:

    I am going to fight every step of the way for a Britain that can do so much better than it can under David Cameron. Now, my opponents might want to start talking about the outcome of an election that hasn't happened; I am going to focus on getting the right outcome of that election for the working people of our country.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But it's almost a given that the outcome will mean forming a coalition that includes smaller parties. The Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Minister Nick Clegg, are one of those parties. In the last government, they joined a coalition with the Conservatives, but this time around, they're not tipping their hand.

  • NICK CLEGG, Deputy Prime Minister, United Kingdom:

    We now need to await the judgment of the British people about what they prefer. Do they prefer the stability that the Liberal Democrats offer or the shambles and chaos of a lurch to the right or the left?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The lurch to the right refers to growing support for UKIP, or the United Kingdom Independence Party. Led by Nigel Farage, its main objective is to leave the European Union.

  • NIGEL FARAGE, Leader, United Kingdom Independence Party:

    We want to be good neighbors with our European friends, but we desperately seek a referendum so that we can set this country free from political union.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    On the left, the Scottish Nationalist Party under 44-year-old Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP is riding a wave of progressive enthusiasm after last year's failed independence vote.

  • NICOLA STURGEON, Leader, Scottish National Party:

    A vote for this SNP manifesto on May the 7th will make Scotland's voice heard at Westminster more strongly than it has ever been before.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The SNP surge has Ed Miliband struggling to hold Labor's 41 seats in Scotland and ruling out any kind of deal with them, all of which left the candidates and the British people waiting today to see if a post-election shambles lies around the corner.

    Dan Balz, chief correspondent for The Washington Post, is in London covering the elections and joins me now.

    So, what happens tomorrow when there's not a clear majority, they have to form a coalition and maybe some strange bedfellows?

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