Before Britain's general elections take place, polls foresee that the country could be governed by a new coalition government, raising the question of whether the two-party system will come to an end
Ahead of Britain's general elections scheduled to take place on Thursday, opinion polls have shown two main parties, the Conservatives and Labour, neck and neck since mid-March with each around 33 percent. However, over the last weeks, Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party seems to have taken a two-point lead, hovering around 35 percent. Just a day before the elections, support is running very close and nothing can be said for sure. However, it seems the only certainty is that no party will win a majority in parliament and the U.K. will have another hung parliament.
The U.K. could be in the same situation as the last elections in 2010. The Conservative Party won the elections but could not win the majority of the 326 seats in parliament to form a single-party government and formed the current government with the Liberal Democrats. The U.K. will also need to form a coalition this year. This time, however, it has more risks. Speaking to Daily Sabah, Dr. Judi Atkins, a lecturer in politics at Coventry University said that if there is a hung parliament, the U.K. may face a second election within a year.
"What happens will depend on the number of seats won by each party, and whether Labour or the Conservatives can build a working parliamentary majority. If a full coalition is not possible, the other option is a minority government, which tends to be short-lived in the U.K., and we may well face a second election within 12 months. I think that politicians and the public need to face up to the fact that the first-past-the-post voting system is no longer fit for purpose. The increasing support for smaller parties, such as the Greens, UKIP [U.K. Independence Party] and the Liberal Democrats, means that hung parliaments have become more likely, and so the era of two-party politics is all but over. The U.K. therefore needs to have sensible conversation about electoral reform and seriously consider a change to a more proportional system."
Speaking to Daily Sabah, professor of political science and public policy, Martin Lodge, of the Department of Government and director of the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR) at the London School of Economics and Political Science, also said another election may be expected.
"My expectation is a parliament with at best a minority government/small majority coalition government. I doubt that this will last for five years."
According to the latest numbers, there are around 41,692,818 registered voters in the U.K. This year around 3.3 million young people will vote in the general elections for the first time. The turnout for the elections over the past 10 years has been around 65 percent, with 2010 being the year with the highest turnout. Election campaigns play a very important part when it comes to turnout. However, experts believe that no party's campaign has been successful enough this year to bring voters to the polls. The numbers also support the experts' claims. According to YouGov, only 41 percent of new voters, around 1.35 million people, say they will definitely vote in the elections, which leaves 2 million young people who will not vote at all. Atkins said that parties have engaged little with members of the public in their election campaigns.
"In my view, the campaign has been disappointing. Important issues such as the environment and foreign policy have been neglected, and the leaders of the three main parties have engaged little with members of the public. In short, it's been more about image than about policies, which risks alienating the electorate even further. "
The topics on party leaders' agendas are no different to any other election. Tackling Britain's deficit and reducing the national debt are key priorities for all the main political parties. The funding of the National Health Service (NHS), Britain's state-run network of hospitals and doctors, is one of the most contentious issues in the election. All the political parties say they will defend the service. However, most of the uncertainties revolve around foreign policy. The most pressing policy issue is that of the European Union and whether to remain a member on the current terms, try to reform it or leave completely. The Conservatives want to try to reform the EU and then put the issue to a referendum while the Labour Party wants to remain a member.
Lodge said leaving the EU would be chaos. "The EU dimension would be important and it would become increasingly difficult for a Conservative prime minister to contain his anti-European parliamentarians. An exit would be a complete disaster for the country."
Britons are going to the polls amid uncertainties. A long discussion of forming the government in parliament awaits the country. Also, domestic and foreign issues could drag Britain into a period of troubled relations with neighbors along with economic instability.
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