British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an early election, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union by shoring up support for her Brexit plan.
Standing outside her Downing Street office on Tuesday, May said she had been reluctant to ask parliament to back her move to bring forward the election from 2020, but decided it was necessary to win support for her ruling Conservative Party's efforts to press ahead with Britain's departure from the EU.
"It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond," she said.
"Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done."
Some were surprised by her move. She has repeatedly said she does not want to be distracted by time-consuming campaigning. Opinion polls give her a strong lead although she has faced opposition from her own party for some of domestic reforms.
May came to power in July 2016 taking over from then Prime Minister David Cameron.
TRT World's Shamim Chowdury has more on Theresa May's career so far
Before holding the election, May must first win the support of two-thirds of the parliament in Wednesday's vote. The opposition Labour Party said it will vote in favour of a new election, meaning she should be able to get it through.
"The decision facing the country will be all about leadership," May said.
"It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest with me as your prime minister, or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats who want to reopen the division of the referendum."
May will hope the election will boost her slim majority in parliament and give her a new mandate to put her stamp on domestic reforms in education and health and strengthen her hand in talks with the EU, which will start in earnest in June.
TRT World's Sarah Morice has more details from London
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he welcomed May's decision, indicating his party will provide the support she needs under electoral law to hold one.
I welcome the PM’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first pic.twitter.com/9P3X6A2Zpw
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) April 18, 2017
"If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit, if you want to keep Britain in the Single Market, if you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united – this is your chance," leader of opposition on Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said after May's decision.
Former Conservative British PM David Cameron tweeted that May's decision is "brave."
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) April 18, 2017
A less enthusiastic Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of the Scottish government, described it as a "huge political miscalculation" that could help her efforts to hold a new independence referendum.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he had a phone conversation with May after her announcement.
Good phone call with PM @theresa_may on upcoming UK elections.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) April 18, 2017