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Kingmaker Liberal Democrats ponder
London, May 8 (IANS)
Published on 9 May. 2010 12:10 AM IST
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Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who has emerged as the kingmaker after British elections threw up the first hung parliament since 1974, is meeting his MPs Saturday to discuss offers from both the Conservatives and the ruling Labour to form a new government.
Clegg will meet his front bench MPs and his wider parliamentary party separately by noon to discuss Tory leader David Cameron’s proposals to form a coalition government, BBC said. Liberal Democrats have a crucial bloc of 57 seats in the new House of Commons.
According to BBC, the party’s federal executive will meet Saturday evening but a final decision on who to go with is not expected.
Britain’s general election results produced a stalemate Friday, stripping the Labour of its governing majority and putting the Conservatives on top of a fractured parliament but short of the numbers to take power. It left the third placed Liberal Democrats in a position to call the shots.
An intense battle for power has ensued. Both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader Cameron have said they would enter into talks with the Liberal Democrats to provide a stable government.
The Conservative Party has got 306 seats but fallen short of the 326-simple majority mark in the 650-member house.
The Labour, which has ruled Britain for 13 years, ended up with 258 seats. One constituency will see balloting May 27.
The Conservatives gained 36 percent of the popular vote share, the Labour 29 percent and the Liberal Democrats 22.9 percent.
Brown, who appears determined to stay on in his job despite heavy Labour losses, offered the Liberal Democrats a referendum and swift legislation on electoral reform in what he called a “progressive pact” to prevent a Conservative government.
But Cameron said that Brown had lost his mandate to govern, and also offered the Liberals “comprehensive talks” on cooperation in the “national interest”.
Liberal leader Clegg has said he was ready to talk to the Conservatives first because they had emerged as the biggest party.
Clegg said he had always believed that the “party with the most votes and the most seats” should have the first chance to form a government. “I stick to this view,” he said.
But there were clear signs that the process would be drawn out.
Meanwhile, there were no signs that Queen Elizabeth II, who would have to “invite” the future government leader, was in any hurry to do so.
The monarch was unlikely to become involved until the situation became clear, constitutional experts said.
Under the unwritten rules of Britain’s constitution, the sitting prime minister can first ask Queen Elizabeth II for the chance to form a government in case of hung parliament.
However, convention also states that the party with the most seats has the “moral” right to ask to form a government.
British voters denied right to vote can claim 750 pounds
Britons denied the right to vote due to chaos at polling booths could be entitled up to 750 pounds compensation each, a lawyer has said. Voters in at least 14 constituencies in eight cities including London, Sheffield and Birmingham were affected by the chaos.
Long queues formed outside polling stations as returning officers were overwhelmed by the numbers wanting to vote. Several were turned away after queuing for hours.
In some cases, however, returning officers kept the polling booths open in contravention to election rules, The Telegraph reported.
The scenes were “unworthy of a mature democracy like ours”, civil rights campaigners said and urged people to take legal action.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, a human rights lawyer, said people could get as much as 750 pounds each in compensation under European law for being denied the right to vote.
He said: “They were terribly disappointed, they should all sue.”
Under the 1983 Representation of the People Act, people would have to prove that they lost their right to vote because of a substantial failure to oversee the election.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: “Liberty will use all legal and campaigning means to ensure that this disgrace is never repeated.”
Harriet Harman, the Labour Party deputy leader, said it was likely that several constituency results would be open to legal challenge.
Tory leader David Cameron said he would “get to the bottom of what has happened and make sure that never ever happens again”.

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