British Prime Minister David Cameron..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives are on course to win the most seats in parliament but will be just shy of an outright majority, an exit poll showed on Thursday after voting closed in a national election.
The poll put the Conservatives on 316 seats and the main opposition Labor Party on 239. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is set to win 58 seats, all but wiping Labor out in its former Scottish stronghold.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who have governed in coalition with the Conservatives for the past five years, will get just 10 seats in the 650-seat Westminster parliament, according to the poll released by national broadcasters.
However, the combined total of 326 for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats indicated that Cameron should be able to stay in office, maybe with the support of another small party.
"The Conservatives have clearly won this election," if the exit poll was correct, Conservative government minister Michael Gove said.
Before the election, opinion polls had shown the two biggest parties neck-and-neck in a vote that could help determine the future of Britain's relationship with the European Union and the place of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
The UK Independence Party, which wants an immediate British withdrawal from the EU, is on track to get two seats, the exit poll showed.
Cameron's Conservatives campaigned on a promise to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU before holding a referendum by 2017 on whether to stay in the bloc or leave.
They have pledged to eliminate the budget deficit, now running at 5 percent of gross domestic product, by 2018/19, including through cuts to welfare spending of 12 billion pounds ($18.3 billion).
Miliband's Labor Party has promised to bring down the deficit less aggressively in what it says would be a fairer way. It has said it will aim to eliminate the deficit, excluding investment spending, but has not set out a firm timetable.
Labor has also said it would introduce a "mansion tax" on properties worth over 2 million pounds, and overhaul tax rules for wealthy foreigners.