Three scenarios for Britain's uncertain election
The outcome of Britain's general election on May 6 is deeply uncertain, but here are three of the most likely scenarios:
1: The Conservatives win the most votes but not the most seats.
This is the scenario that many commentators envisage, where the opposition Tories would win the most votes but only lead Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party by up to four percentage points.
Because of Britain's skewed electoral system, Labour would actually emerge with the highest number of seats in the House of Commons in this situation, although not enough for a majority (326 out of 650 seats).
With neither party able to take control -- a hung parliament -- the Liberal Democrats would play kingmakers.
"A Lib-Lab coalition would be very easy to set up, a Con-Lib would be very difficult," said Tony Travers of the London School of Economics, noting the Lib Dems' leftist tendencies.
Their policies overlap with both Labour and the Tories, however, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said he would not back Gordon Brown to continue as prime minister if his Labour party comes third in the vote count.
Speculation about a possible alternative leader has focused on Labour's current foreign secretary, David Miliband.
2: The Conservatives fall just short of a parliamentary majority.
A situation that LSE politics expert Patrick Dunleavy calls a "shallow hung parliament", where the Conservatives are at least six points ahead of Labour and win both more votes and more seats.
They could form a government without the Lib Dems, instead relying on the support of smaller parties.
In this case, the Lib Dems would not have enough lawmakers to keep Labour in power for a fourth term.
3: The Conservatives win an absolute majority
This is the least likely scenario, requiring the Tories to lead Labour by at least ten points. Conservative leader David Cameron would form a government and he would be named prime minister.
© 2010 AFP