As expected, the UK awoke to news of a hung parliament. However, it turned out that polls predicting a close race for second place in the popular vote between Labour and Liberal Democrats were in error—Labour still carried over 6% more of the vote than the Liberal Democrats.
As David Cameron’s Conservative Party won the most votes and the most seats, by Nick Clegg’s stated standards, he will have the first opportunity to attempt to form a coalition government, and despite Tory rhetoric about the dangers of a hung parliament before the election, Cameron’s statement today suggests that he is very willing to deal with the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government
It should be noted that this election result, while very disappointing for the Liberal Democrats, still serves to underscore the issue of electoral reform. Despite actually gaining a 1.3% share of the vote, Liberal Democrats have lost seats. While their position firmly in third place does not inspire as much confidence in the legitimacy of their claims as they would have had should they have gotten second place in the popular vote, it is still an effective demonstration of the flaws of first past the post when 3 or more viable parties exist.
In the end, a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition seems most likely. A Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition would as of now (with two seats yet to be determined) exactly match the number of Tory seats at 305, which given Labour’s enormous losses and the Liberal Democrats’ disappointing night would lack any sense of legitimacy. As such, the Liberal Democrats lack the bargaining power that they would have otherwise had, should a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition have been possible. While they still wield some power, the only party with whom they can form an exclusive coalition is the Conservative Party.
Indeed it ultimately looks like that’s what we’ll see. David Cameron has expressed a preference for a coalition over a minority government and Nick Clegg has given him the first move. Time may prove me wrong, but the path forward looks pretty straightforward from here.