Stormy times ahead for Britain after inconclusive vote: press

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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.

While the opposition Conservatives looked certain to finish as the biggest party in the House of Commons, partial results showed David Cameron's party was in line to win around 305 seats -- 21 short of an overall majority.

That opened the possibility of Cameron trying to force through a minority government with the support of smaller parties, or Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party trying to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Both solutions would be unusual for Britain and carried the risk of instability at a time when a government will have to deal with a record deficit and weak economic growth, as commentators were quick to point out.

Jackie Ashley in The Guardian newspaper said: "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.

"There is still time, of course, for late results to change the situation, but right now none of the options on offer are likely to produce a stable government for the next five years."

The Daily Mail said a hung parliament was a "nightmare scenario".

In an editorial, it said another option was for the Conservatives to rule as a minority with Liberal Democrat backing but without a formal coalition.

But in such a scenario, "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.

And the price of any deal with unionist members of parliament in Northern Ireland in return for their support "would be heavy for the UK taxpayer".

"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."

© 2010 AFP

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