British Prime Minister David Cameron has declared victory for his Conservative Party after vote counting came to an end on Friday morning following one of the tightest UK elections in decades.
Early exit polls published at 10:00pm local time immediately after polling stations were closed predicted the Conservatives would win the largest share of seats in the 650-seat parliament with 316, just 10 short of a majority.
However, once the vote count ended on Friday afternoon, the Conservatives had won 331 seats, five more than what they needed to secure a majority government in the parliament. It is the first time since 1983 that an incumbent party has increased its seats.
Prime Minister Cameron declared victory and laid out his plan to rule the country for another five years before returning to 10 Downing Street on Friday morning.
“My aim remains simple - to govern on the basis of governing for everyone in our United Kingdom," Cameron said.
"I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised and came together with other parties to agree both for Wales and for Scotland.
"In short, I want my party, and I hope a government I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost - the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom. That is how I will govern if I am fortunate enough to form a government in the coming days."
Cameron is due to meet with Queen Elizabeth II around midday local time to seek her blessing to form the UK’s new government.
Labour and Liberal Democrat disappointment
It was a disappointing night for centre-left opposition party Labour, which saw its previous 258 seats in parliament drop to 232, while the biggest loss was recorded by current coalition partner Liberal Democrats, which saw a drop of 57 seats to just eight.
"Clearly this has been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party,” Labour leader Ed Miliband said in Doncaster.
"We haven't made the gains we wanted in England and Wales and in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelming our party."
Miliband later announced his intention to resign as Labour leader as the party’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls also conceded the loss of his seat.
Liberal Democrat head Nick Clegg was the first party leader to resign after defending his initial decision to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives after the last election in 2010.
Speaking from Sheffield Hallam hours after the polls closed, Clegg said it had been a "cruel and punishing night" for his party.
"I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election - both for the country and for the party that I lead and for my position in the Liberal Democrats - when I make remarks to my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats later this morning when I return to Westminster."
Energy Secretary Ed Davey, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, former schools secretary David Laws, former party leader Charles Kennedy and former deputy leader Simon Hughes were among the senior Liberal Democrat members to lose their seats.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Paddy Ashdown originally criticised the exit polls, saying he would publically “eat his hat” if the exit polls proved to be accurate live on BBC. However, he later conceded his party’s losses.
Joy for Scots
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon is celebrating success in Scotland after the party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, up from its previous six seats after winning over former Labour voters.
“This is a watershed in the politics of this country and all the SNP candidates must now work to stand up for Scotland. Whatever happens, the government must take heed of what has happened here,” Sturgeon said to a jubilant crowd in Glasgow.
Sturgeon, who has been nicknamed the “Queen of Scots” following her landslide success, was quick to doubt the exit polls which predicted her party would win all but one seat in Scotland, but as the night progressed it became clear the SNP had taken control of much of Scotland from Labour.
Scottish Labour Party head Jim Murphy conceded his party’s defeat in Scotland after losing his seat alongside Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, who was replaced by the SNP’s 20-year-old candidate Mhairi Black, making her the country’s youngest elected lawmaker.
Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won its first seat in parliament after former Conservative lawmaker Douglas Carswell was re-elected in Clacton, Essex.
UKIP leader Farage, however, failed to take the seat in Thanet South, where he was highly expected to win. Farage later said he would resign as UKIP leader.
Meanwhile, Welsh party Plaid Cymru, which calls for Wales to be given the same rights as Scotland, took three seats in the parliament.
In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist party won eight seats, while the left-wing republican Sinn Fein took a total of four seats - one ahead of the Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, which won three seats.
The Ulster Unionist Party was able to win two seats in the parliament, while the remaining seat was taken by the Green Party.
Respect party leader George Galloway, however, lost his seat in Bradford West to to Labour candidate Naz Shah. Galloway was later reported to the police for breaking election laws by tweeting the exit polls before voting had ended.
This election was also a victory for British women, with 182 female lawmakers being elected, comprising 28 percent of the new parliament - a record number of women elected in a UK election.