Stormy times ahead for Britain after poll deadlock: press
Britain faces a turbulent few months after the general election produced a parliament without one party holding an absolute majority -- and the answer may be another election, commentators said Friday.
The opposition Conservatives finished as the biggest party in the House of Commons, but fell short of their 326-seat target which would have allowed them to govern as a single party.
The horse-trading started immediately, with Nick Clegg, the leader of the third-biggest party, the Liberal Democrats, indicating that the Conservatives had earned the "first right to seek to govern".
Whether the Conservatives can bridge their deep differences and do a deal with the Lib Dems, or Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour can cling onto power by persuading the Lib Dems over to their side, both solutions would be unusual for Britain.
They carry the risk of instability at a time when a British government will have to deal with a record deficit and weak economic growth, as commentators were quick to point out.
"The more we hear of the different permutations of who might work with whom after tonight, the more I feel there is only one certainty: we'll be having another general election before too long," said Jackie Ashley in The Guardian.
The Daily Mail said a hung parliament was a "nightmare scenario".
In an editorial, it said a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition would be fraught with problems for Cameron.
"Cameron would have only a tenuous grip on power -- with the Lib Dems in a position to defeat any policy they remotely disagree with -- such as stricter immigration controls, or abolition of the Human Rights Act," it said.
Another potential route for Cameron could be a deal with unionist members of parliament in Northern Ireland in return for their support, but that would carry a heavy burden for the British taxpayer, the paper said.
"The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) would demand Northern Ireland is spared 200 million pounds (290 million dollars, 230 million euros) of cuts in state spending from an economy over-reliant on state jobs," it said.
The Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph admitted that the task facing Cameron was "daunting".
"It is highly unlikely that Mr Cameron will seek a coalition with other parties and he would be wise to avoid doing so," it said in an editorial.
"Without a healthy majority, the task facing him is even more daunting. Rarely, in peacetime, will a new government have taken power in less propitious circumstances," it added.
"An economic catastrophe has saddled the nation with a crippling burden of debt, while the impact of the MPs' expenses scandal still sullies the relationship between politician and voter."
In The Times, Rachel Sylvester said Cameron had secured nothing more than a "half-hearted endorsement".
"The voters have turned their backs on Gordon Brown but they have not rushed into the arms of the Tories, in the way they did with new Labour 13 years ago," she wrote.
"Instead they have slunk rather late in the day up to the Conservatives, like sullen teenagers who are embarrassed by having to stand next to their parents."
Another voice on The Guardian website, Julian Glover, praised Clegg's "brave" statement on the Conservatives.
But he pointed out: "In truth, he could hardly have done otherwise, given the failure of Labour and the Lib Dems together to win enough seats to rule with a majority together -- but he will have been tempted to hold out. Labour would have promised him the earth."
© 2010 AFP