Early exit polls from the UK elections have shown Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party ahead with a clear lead over their rivals Labour with 316 seats in the 650-seat parliament.
The expected result places the Conservatives just 10 seats away from securing a majority in the parliament, up nine seats from the last election. If accurate, it will be the first time since 1983 that an incumbent party has increased its seats.
Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, however, is expected to see a decrease of 19 seats to 239, despite pre-election polls putting them neck and neck with the Conservatives.
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon will be celebrating a clear victory in Scotland having been shown to win all but one of Scotland’s 59 seats, but she doubted the accuracy of the exit poll, tweeting it was “unlikely” the SNP had done as well as predicted.
Meanwhile, current coalition partner Nick Clegg will be rueing the significant drop of support for his Liberal Democrats, which is expected to record a loss of 47 seats, winning only 10 in the next parliament.
Nigel Farage’s far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is forecast to win its first two seats in the parliament, while Welsh party Plaid Cymru is due to take four seats.
The Greens are also expected to gain two seats, while other parties share a total of 19 seats.
Polls closed at precisely 10:00pm local time after a day of voting in what was said to be the tightest election in the UK in decades.
Exit polls were published immediately after polls closed, with Sunderland South being the first constituency to officially their results shortly afterwards.
Counting will continue throughout the night as constituencies across the country declare their results.
Official results are due to be announced at 06:00am local time on Friday morning, with Prime Minister Cameron expected to keep his promise to declare victory even before forming a coalition.
Ed Miliband previously said he would call for Cameron’s resignation if he announces victory under such circumstances.
The Conservatives, however, are expected to form the next coalition to run the country, only requiring another 10 seats to form a majority.
Although current coalition partner Liberal Democrats are likely to win the 10 seats needed to renew their alliance with the Conservatives, previous reports have suggested party leader Nick Clegg may face a revolt from party members if he joins forces with Cameron again.
If the Conservatives can form a new ruling coalition, they are expected to push through with a proposed referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU.