Britain votes in knife-edge poll; 89 Asian-origins in fray
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Last Updated: Thursday, May 06, 2010, 20:41
  
London: Britons Thursday voted in what is billed as the most tightly-contested general election since the World War II which could lead to a hung Parliament, though latest opinion polls gave a clear edge to opposition Tories over the ruling Labour as well as Liberal Democrats.

Polling stations opened at 7 am local time and the voters have until 10 pm to exercise their franchise, and moderate polling was recorded in most of the 649 constituencies till evening.

Over 44 million people were registered to vote for nearly 4,150 candidates in 649 constituencies. Polling in one constituency - Thirsk and Malton - has been delayed until May 27 because of the death of one of the candidates during the campaign.

First results are expected at 11 pm local time. The vast majority of constituencies will count votes and declare results overnight.

As the polling began, police commenced a probe into alleged fraudulent postal voting and false registration of voters' addresses.

As well as chosing MPs for the House of Commons, voters will also elect councillors in 164 local authorities across England.

A record 89 Asian origin candidates are in the fray including 30 from the Conservative party, which is eyeing to capture power.

In the 2005 elections, there were 68 such candidates and the highest number of ethnic minority MPs - 15 - were declared elected.

In the current elections, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have nominated a record 22 women of South Asian descent.

There has been no Asian woman MP till now and last parliament had 15 Asian and Black MPs, all male.

A string of eve-of-election opinion polls gave David Cameron's Conservatives a clear lead over Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

But they still suggest the Tories may not reach the level of support they need to claim an overall majority in the 650-member House of Commons. Cameron is likely to form a coalition government with MPs from Northern Ireland.

The result is the most uncertain in any election since 1992 and there is the first real prospect of a hung Parliament in almost 30 years.

According to the last polls of the campaign, Cameron is within touching distance of a Commons majority with the Tories set to make massive gains from Labour.

The surveys gave the Conservatives a lead of up to nine percentage points and provided fresh evidence that the Liberal Democrats poll bounce is fading.

Pollsters expect that with bigger swings in key marginal seats, the Tories will win between 300 and 310 seats - close to the 326 they need for an absolute Commons majority.

According to the latest Harris/Daily Mail, Tories may get 35 per cent, Labour 29 and Lib Dems 27, while YouGov/Sun poll claimed 35 per cent for Tories, 28 for Labour and Lib Dems each.

A Populus/Times poll indicated 37 per cent for Tories, 28 for Labour and 27 for Lib Dems. ICM/Guardian poll showed 36 per cent for Tories, 28 per cent for Labour and 26 per cent for Lib Dems.

David Cameron was the first of the main UK partty leaders to cast their vote.

The Tory leader went to a community hall in Witney, Oxfordshire, shortly after 10.30 am (local time), accompanied by his wife Samantha.

Prime Minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown went to vote shortly after 11.00 am at a community centre close to his home in North Queensferry, Fife.

His wife Sarah was with him. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, voted in a polling station in Sheffield Hallam at 11.20 am )local time).

His wife Mirian is unable to vote as she is a Spanish citizen.

Prominent among the Asian origin candidates in the fray are Keith Vaz, who has represented Leicester East for Labour for the last 23 years, 55-year-old Marsha singh, who has been a Labour MP in Bradford West since 1997 and Punjab-born Virendra Sharma, who has been representing Labour from Ealing Southall since 2007 after winning a byelection. This time Keith Vaz's sister Valerie Vaz, a lawyer, is contesting on a Labour ticket from Walsall South.

Another NRI, Priti Patel is seeking election from Witham constituency on a Conservative ticket.

The vast majority of constituencies will conduct their counts overnight, with about 20 not due to begin the process until tomorrow morning at 0900 hours.

Among the council elections taking place, voters will choose representatives in 32 London boroughs, 36 metropolitan authorities and 20 unitary authorities.

In these elections, a total of 15,785 candidates are contesting 4,222 seats.

Voting is also held to choose mayors in Hackney, Newham, Lewisham and Watford.

Exit polls will be broadcast on television immediately after voting ends at 10 pm.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police here said it had received a number of allegations concerning false registration of voters' addresses in Tower Hamlets.

Its four ongoing investigations in the borough were being combined into one probe, along side a second investigation into election irregularities in Ealing. A total of 23 allegations of election irregularities across the capital were currently being assessed.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, May 06, 2010, 20:41


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