Hung parliament in Britain: what happens next?

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Britain's closely fought general election could lead to a hung parliament, in which no one party has an overall majority.

Here are details of what would happen next if this was the case.

- There are 650 seats in the House of Commons up for grabs at the election. One party will need to win at least 326 to secure a clear majority. Labour currently has 345, the Conservatives 193 and the Liberal Democrats 63.

- If after the general election one party has an absolute majority, it will form a government and that party's leader will be prime minister.

- If no party has an absolute majority, there will be a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.

- If there is a hung parliament, the prime minister could stay in office and try to form a minority or coalition government -- or tender his and his government's resignation.

- If he decides to try and stay on, the prime minister would then go to the House of Commons to see if his government can survive a motion of confidence. If it does, it could stay on.

- If the government does not survive the vote, the prime minister would be expected to hand in his and his government's resignation to Queen Elizabeth II immediately.

- The monarch then invites the person most likely to be able to form a lasting government to do so, with himself as prime minister.

- That person could then form a government which could, again, be a minority or coalition administration.

- If there is no government that can command the confidence of the House of Commons, parliament can be dissolved and another election held.

- A minority government is a much more likely scenario than a coalition because Britain's first-past-the-post voting system means coalitions are rare, except at times of crisis such as World War II.

© 2010 AFP

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