LONDON, May 7, 2010 -- In one of the closest elections in decades, with no clear winner the Conservative leader David Cameron will get a chance to form a new government for Britain, it emerged today.
His center-right Conservative party won the most seats in parliament, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party in a close second, and the Liberal Democrats in third. The division of seats means that Britain has a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.
"It's the Mick Jagger election. It's no satisfaction. Everybody is utterly dissatisfied with the outcome." Peter Hennessy, a constitutional expert, told the BBC.
Cameron, as the head of the party with the most seats and thanks to a decision by Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat leader, and kingmaker of this close election, will most likely be the country's next prime minister.
"Nick Clegg has said that, because the Conservative Party won the most votes and the most seats in this election, we should have the chance to form the government. And I thank him for that."
Political pundits are speculating over the various scenarios that could ensue, debating over which parties will form a coalition and when.
All three leaders have made it clear today that they are open to negotiations.
Clegg and Cameron are to meet tonight to discuss how their parties could work together in the future.
Brown recognized this in his statement today and said that Clegg and Cameron should "be entitled to take as much time as they feel necessary."
But Brown did not discount himself from participating in future government negotiations and went on to make his own overtures toward the Lib Dem leader, saying he was willing to discuss with him, "the areas where there may be some measure of agreement between our two parties."
One such area Brown highlighted is electoral reform, a key issue that was integral to Clegg's campaign, and something that Cameron in the past has said he doesn't want to change.
"There needs to be immediate legislation on this to begin to restore the public's trust in politics," Brown said today, reinforcing Clegg's earlier comments.
Gordon Brown to Remain Prime Minister During Negotiations
This election campaign has made it abundantly clear that our electoral system is broken." Clegg said this morning. "It simply doesn't reflect the hopes and aspirations of the British people."
"Britain voted for change yesterday. But it also voted for a new politics. It did not vote for party political bickering, grandstanding and point-scoring. Our country's problems are too serious, they are too urgent for that." Cameron told his supporters, as he laid out the possible scenarios his party was considering.
Cameron, who holds enough seats to go it alone and form a minority government, also reached out to the Lib Dems, "So I want to make a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats. I want us to work together in tackling our country's big and urgent problems,"
He too mentioned electoral reform when speaking to his supporters today, "On our political system, we agree with the Liberal Democrats that reform is urgently needed to help restore trust, and that reform must include the electoral system."
Those comments were in stark contrast to his position last month when he told reporters, "I don't want the electoral system to change. I think it would be a big, big mistake for this country."
In his speech today Cameron conceded that,"Inevitably the negotiations we are about to start will involve compromise."
He made clear the issues he was not prepared to compromise on – Britain's defence will remain strong, he will not be soft on immigration, nor will he yield more power to Europe.
Clegg has yet to respond publicly to either leader's statements.
Brown will remain as prime minister while the negotiations take place, and as incumbent should have constitutionally been given the opportunity to form a government first. But Clegg pre-empted this possibility by saying Cameron should first be allowed to form a government.
"What we have just seen are no ordinary election results," Brown said as he gave "an assessment of where we are" to reporters in Downing Street.
Market Reacts to Close British Election
"I do so as prime minister with a constitutional duty to seek to resolve the situation for the good of the country"
Everyone is agreed that the sooner this situation is resolved the better, a government must be formed by May 25 when The Queen will open parliament.
For now the party leaders are regrouping, exhausted after a gruelling campaign.
"We have to be patient for some time more." Business Secretary Lord Mandelson told the BBC, saying that Brown was going to rest and "catch his breath."
Clegg also called for calm, "It is best if everyone just takes a bit of time" adding that it would be "bad to rush into decisions that do not stand the test of time."
News of a hung parliament added to the financial markets' woes, already troubled by yesterday's massive plunge in the Dow, riots in Greece and Europe's mounting debt crisis.
The pound fell, London's stock exchange continued to sink and experts warn that the U.K.'s credit rating could be in danger.
"The net result is masses of uncertainty. The new government is likely to be weak at best," said Alan Clarke of BNP Paribas.
"Even in the case of a coalition, the partners will be constantly looking over their shoulders, and compromise politics will mean that the scope for delivering radical or unpopular fiscal tightening is limited."
As all the parties have made clear Britain must tackle its deficit problem and soon; who will do it has yet to be determined.