Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, an exit poll predicted on Thursday, sending shockwaves through the financial markets.
The exit poll predicted that Conservatives would win 314 seats in the 650-member parliament and the opposition Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”, Reuters reports.
According to the BBC, 76 seats appeared too close to call.
Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict whether May has a chance of surviving as prime minister and who might end up leading the next government and steering Britain into divorce talks with the European Union.
Senior Conservatives were quick to say exit polls had been wrong in the past. In 2015, the exit poll suggested they would fall short, but when the actual results came in they had a slim majority.
Sterling fell initially by more than two cents against the US dollar as markets digested the prospect of extreme political uncertainty and even the risk of a second election this year.
The exit poll pointed to an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago, Reuters noted.
Should she be forced to step down as prime minister, less than 11 months after landing the job, it would make her tenure the shortest of any British premier since the 1920s.
Her poll lead shrank over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major proposal on care for the elderly and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.
May was widely derided for endlessly repeating her slogan of “strong and stable leadership” despite her u-turn on the care policy. She gave few policy details and appeared mostly at tightly controlled events.
By contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who had initially been written off as a no-hoper, was widely deemed to have run a strong, policy-rich campaign that enthused many followers.
If the exit poll is correct, Corbyn could attempt to form a government with smaller parties which, like Labour, strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.
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