UK leaders scramble for votes in final hours

UK leaders scramble for votes in final hours
# 06 May 2010 04:36 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Britain’s party leaders made a final push to win over millions of undecided voters before an election on Thursday that is expected to be one of the closest in decades and decide how the economy recovers from recession, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, seeking a fourth consecutive election win for his ruling Labour Party, visited a flower market and a university in a frenetic last day of campaigning before polls open at 0600 GMT on Thursday.
Labour, in power since 1997 but battered by recession and anger over a scandal surrounding MPs’ expenses that has tainted all the main parties, could still win the greatest number of seats in parliament, according to one opinion poll on Wednesday.
Nearly four in 10 voters said they could still change their minds, a second survey suggested.
"There are thousands of people who have still got to make up their minds," Brown said in a speech at Bradford University, northern England.
Opposition Conservative leader David Cameron campaigned through the night, visiting a fish market and a fire station, and said was he was fighting for an outright majority.
"It is a nerve-racking time," he told Sky News. "But I think we have the strongest possible finish."
The main exit poll will be published as polls close at 2100 GMT on Thursday. The official result is expected early on Friday.
A YouGov poll for the Sun newspaper suggested support for the center-right Conservatives was unchanged on 35 percent, with center-left Labour on 30 and the centrist Liberal Democrats falling four points to 24.
The quirks of the "first past the post" electoral system, in which each MP is elected by gaining the most votes in one electoral district, mean these figures could allow Labour to remain the biggest party, but short of a majority in parliament.
A ComRes poll for the Independent newspaper put support for the parties unchanged, with the Conservatives 8 points ahead of Labour, making Cameron’s party the largest in the new 650-seat parliament, but denying him outright control. Brown’s Labour Party currently has a majority of 56.
Britain has not had an inconclusive result of this kind since it was mired in an economic crisis in 1974 and is unused to the coalition-building familiar to many European countries.
A Reuters poll found market strategists had scaled back their outlook for the pound against the dollar due to the likelihood of a "hung parliament," with economists seeing a one-in-five chance Britain could suffer a credit rating downgrade some time after the election.
Markets fear political deadlock could complicate efforts to cut a record deficit running at more than 11 percent of GDP.
European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday that whoever formed the government must first agree a convincing fiscal consolidation plan.
With Britain emerging from its worst recession since World War Two, the economy has been the main electoral battleground.
Labour says the Conservatives’ plans to cut the record budget deficit will undermine the recovery, while the main opposition party says deep cuts are urgently required.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg dismissed suggestions he could be kingmaker come Friday.
"There are 45 million people in this country who are entitled to vote, 45 million kingmakers, I’m not the kingmaker, not David Cameron, not Gordon Brown," he told supporters.