London: Millions voted in the UK today in the country’s closest polls in decades as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party and opposition Labour were locked in a dead heat electoral battle with migrant voters, including the Indian diaspora, expected to be the deciding factor.
The prospects of a hung Parliament loomed large with most pollsters predicting a neck and neck fight between Cameron-led Conservative Party and leader of the opposition Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.
In his final appeal to voters, Cameron said: “The future of the country is in your hands. Don’t do something you will regret.” Britain’s party leaders took the lead as millions began voting this morning. A sunny, clear day offered the perfect setting for a high turnout, which began on a moderate note but picked up as the day progressed.
However, dozens ready to vote were turned away as IT glitches meant they were not on the electoral rolls despite holding a legitimate polling card.
Indian-origin voters, including the 1.5 million diaspora population as well as 615,000 India-born students and other migrants currently based in the UK, were expected to play a key role as every vote will count in what is being described as a knife-edge poll.
Like India, Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system which means the party with the most votes rather than vote share has the upper hand.Unlike India’s electronic voting system, Britain still relies on the use of the old-fashioned pencil to mark a cross against the name of the candidate of choice.
With poll pundits predicting a hung Parliament, the magic number on everyone’s mind is 326 –- which is the number of MPs required for a majority in the 650-member House of Commons.
Cameron accompanied by wife Samantha was among the early voters at his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire. Miliband, who is hoping to make his entry into No.10 Downing Street as the new British Prime Minister, cast his vote alongside wife Justine almost an hour earlier at his Doncaster North constituency towards the southwest of London. “It will come down to a few hundred votes in a few dozen constituencies. If you’ve got anything to do in the next 36 hours, cancel it,” Miliband said in his final message.
Other party leaders, including Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg, United Kingdom Independence Party’s Nigel Farage and the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon also cast their votes soon after the polls opened at 0700 (local time) at around 50,000 polling stations across the UK.
A total of 650 MPs were to be elected for the main Westminster elections by about 50 million registered voters – who also voted for around 10,000 council seats being contested across 290 English local authorities. Scotland Yard received 18 allegations of electoral fraud in the run-up to the elections.