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British Election Produces Turmoil
Future of Prime Minister Theresa May in Doubt
Written by
Henry Chu

Residents of the U.K. woke to political turmoil Friday as a snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May on the eve of crucial Brexit negotiations failed to deliver a decisive result, with no party able to muster a majority in Parliament.

With most votes counted early Friday, May’s Conservative Party was on track to win about 320 out of 650 seats, fewer than in the previous election two years ago and short of the 326 necessary for the party to retain full control of Parliament. Losing that majority – after some pundits had initially predicted she would win in a landslide – immediately cast May’s future as prime minister in doubt.

The main opposition Labour Party was poised to gain some seats, for a total of about 260.

With the most seats overall, the Conservatives are still expected to form a new government. But without a parliamentary majority, they will have to cobble together support from smaller parties to form a shaky coalition or to govern on an issue-by-issue basis, and will potentially have a dangerously weak hand in the talks on Britain’s divorce terms from the European Union.

The outcome is a harsh and possibly catastrophic blow to May as leader, who called the election on the grounds that she needed a bigger parliamentary majority in order to have a strong mandate in the Brexit negotiations. That has spectacularly failed to materialize.

“This country needs a period of stability, and whatever the results are, the Conservative Party will ensure that we will fulfill our duty in ensuring that stability so that we can all, as one country, go forward together,” May said early Friday, as the prospect of a “hung parliament” – one without a majority party – began to become clearer.

The right-wing tabloid The Sun splashed the headline “Theresa Dismay” on its front page. Political opponents were already demanding May’s resignation.

“The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence. I would’ve thought that’s enough to go…and make way for a government that [is] truly representative of all the people in this country.”

Who would replace May if she is ousted or steps down is unclear, though former London Mayor Boris Johnson would almost certainly throw his hat in the ring.

May went into the election promising to provide “strong and stable” leadership, but as the campaign wore on, the Conservatives’ sizable lead in the polls began to erode, and May found herself loudly criticized as an ineffective campaigner who dodged candidate debates and tough questions on Brexit, the most important challenge facing Britain.

She has held the top job for less than a year, the successor to former premier David Cameron, who resigned after Britons repudiated his advice and voted to leave the E.U. May took over as prime minister after winning an internal leadership contest within the Conservative Party.

After formally notifying the E.U. earlier this year that it wanted out, Britain has two years to complete negotiations on the withdrawal and its future relationship with Europe.  The challenge is a monumental one, as trade agreements must be re-negotiated and Britain’s participation in many European institutions rescinded or re-formulated.

The vast majority of members of Britain’s thriving entertainment industry supported staying in the E.U.


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