Tens of thousands of polling stations were set to open at 7 a.m. GMT on Thursday as British voters prepare to choose members of Parliament in a snap election called by Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a majority and “get Brexit done.”
“Vote one-nation Conservative party, get Brexit done (and) move our country forward,” Johnson said in a video message to voters on the eve of the “most important election in modern memory.”
He campaigned on promises to withdraw Britain from the European Union on Jan. 31 and cut taxes while funding improvements to health, education, police and rail services.
The deal he negotiated with Brussels is “oven-ready … to get Brexit done,” if a Conservative majority can push it through a new Parliament, Johnson said at a campaign event on Wednesday.
Johnson, 55, has also pledged to limit immigration and negotiate liberal post-Brexit trade deals with the United States and other non-EU nations.
“We’re a great country and we can be greater still,” he said in another campaign message on Wednesday.
The main opposition Labour Party’s left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn offered a radical “manifesto of hope,” promising to renationalize key industries, invest massively in infrastructure and provide free broadband services.
Corbyn, 70, promised that Labour would negotiate an improved Brexit deal to pit against remaining in the EU in a second Brexit referendum and would then “carry out” whatever the majority decided.
He urged voters to save the National Health Service (NHS), which has been subject to cuts and privatization in recent years.
“We can rewrite the economy for the many, not the few,” Corbyn said in a campaign speech. “It’s time for real change.”
About two-thirds of eligible voters, or more than 30 million people, are expected to take part in the election.
Most analysts believe a comfortable parliamentary majority for the Conservatives is the most likely outcome under Britain’s constituency-based, first-past-the-post system.
A key opinion poll late Tuesday also suggested the Conservatives will win a majority of several dozen seats in Parliament.
Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, lost the party’s majority after calling a disastrous snap election in June 2017.
The YouGov poll predicted the Conservatives will win about 43% of votes on Thursday, with Labour on 34% and the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats on 12%.
That would give Johnson a parliamentary majority of 28 seats, according to the pollster’s seat-by-seat analysis.
Leading political analysts have warned, however, that a hung Parliament remains possible.
Much could depend on the results in several dozen key marginals. Tactical voting could also play a part in a small number of seats where the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats are competing for votes with Labour, or where veteran eurosceptic Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are vying with the Conservatives.
If the election does, however, lead to a hung Parliament, Labour could win enough seats to form a minority government with support from the smaller Scottish National Party (SNP) and possibly the Liberal Democrats.
Brexit, the National Health Service (NHS), crime, economy and immigration are the main issues parties focused on during their campaigns.
The Conservative Party based their election campaign on Brexit, pledging to leave the EU on Jan. 31, the deadline granted by the bloc last September. Brexit is the main issue Boris Johnson would like to leave behind by legislating his revised withdrawal agreement through parliament, and it is the reason why he triggered the snap poll in the first place.
The main opposition Labour Party has pledged a new withdrawal agreement with the EU and a confirmatory referendum on the deal.
Liberal Democrats and the SNP have promised to revoke the calling of the Article 50 divorce clause and cancel Brexit, while the Brexit Party has vowed to leave the bloc without an agreement.
Up to 2 million Muslim voters will impact the results in 31 constituencies where the winning candidates’ majorities were low in 2017.
Muslim voters could also change the result in 26 other constituencies, while Muslim groups urge voters to decide who to vote for by keeping in mind parties’ policies on Islamophobia. This will be a factor against the Conservatives, who have failed to launch an investigation into such problems within their own party.
According to the “first-past-the-post” system in the U.K., the candidate who receives the highest number of votes in any of the 650 constituencies wins the election.
The traditional Queen’s Speech is planned for Dec. 19, but this date needs clarification based on the final election results.
The election results will produce new scenarios:
– Any party winning 326 or more seats can form the new government on its own.
– If Conservatives win the most seats but cannot reach 326, they will look for support for a minority government. However, none of the parties are likely to give them that support. The previous government formed by Theresa May had a “supply and confidence” deal with the DUP to reach a working majority with their 10 members of Parliament in Westminster.
However, the DUP now thinks Johnson betrayed them by introducing a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. in his revised Brexit deal. Their support, such as any other smaller parties’, is unlikely.
– If Labour wins the most seats in a less likely outcome but gets less than 326 seats, they will try to form a coalition government with one or more parties including the Lib Dems and the SNP to find a working majority in the House. The Lib Dems have said they would not be in a coalition with the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.
– It is unlikely that any other party will win the most seats and form a government.