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Britain Goes to the Polls in the Closest Election in Decades

The Conservatives are fighting to stay in power, with Labour snapping at their ankles, and the result is way too close to call in today's UK general election.
Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The electioneering has ended and Brits are taking to the polls today to decide on a government to hopefully last them another five years.

No party is expected to win a majority, meaning that today's ballot-casting is only the beginning in a lengthy process of posturing, maneuvering, and negotiation before a coalition — formal or informal — is created.

Competition for seats is tight, with the latest projections from Election Forecast putting Conservatives at 278 MPs, Labour at 267, the Scottish National Party (SNP) at 53, and the Liberal Democrats 27.

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Northern Irish party DUP is expected to get eight seats, while the Welsh Plaid Cymru is currently predicted to get four. The nationalist Northern Irish party SDLP come in at three, while both the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party are expected to get one each.

One of the most notable changes since the last general election has been the huge surge in membership of the SNP since last September's independence referendum in Scotland — from just over 25,000 to more than 100,000. The SNP is expected to wipe the floor in Scotland, where Labour has long dominated, predicted to take all of Labour's 41 seats in a wipeout that has thwarted any chances it could have had of winning an overall majority.

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In a video posted on Twitter, Conservative leader David Cameron said: "Today, you'll be voting in the most important general election in a generation. How you vote will affect not just your future, but that of your family and our country. If you want to stop Ed Miliband and the SNP from getting into power and wrecking our economy, if you want to ensure a strong, stable government, if you want to save our economy, and our United Kingdom, and yes, if you want me back at work on Friday, working through our long economic plan as your prime minister, then it's vital you vote Conservative locally."

Miliband tweeted: "I'm not asking you simply to vote Labour. I'm asking you to vote to reward hard work again and to build a future for all our young people." The Labour leader has cast the election as a choice between two opposing visions — a country run for the rich and powerful, or one run for working people.

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Related: Behind the political spin: The British election

As millions are expected to cast their vote, more than a hundred residents in the London borough of Hackney will not be able to participate in the election, despite registering before the April deadline, due to a computer glitch. In Darlington, a parliamentary candidate for UKIP was missed off 89 ballot papers. Speaking to the Northern Echo, candidate David Hodgson said Darlington Borough Council had "serious questions to answer."

In 2010 65 percent of of 45.6 million registered voters showed up at the ballot boxes, up from a low of 59 percent in 2001 but still one of the lowest turnouts since general elections began in 1918. More than two million more people registered to vote in the last few weeks of this year's campaign.

Last summer the Electoral Commission announced that there were 7.5 million eligible but unregistered voters, including a disproportionately high number of poor, black, and young people.

Related: Who would migrants vote for?: The British election

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

Follow Jenna Corderoy on Twitter: @JennaCorderoy