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Political Negotiations in Britain Continue


Four days have passed since Britons went to the polls, but the shape of the country's future government is unclear. Last week's general election resulted in a hung parliament and now the Conservatives, who won the most votes, are in talks with the third place Liberal Democrats to form a possible coalition.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said Friday his party and the Conservatives are working "flat out" in order to come to a deal.

"I do not think a prolonged period of uncertainty is a good thing, that is why I want to arrive at a decision, we want to arrive at decision, as soon as possible," Clegg said. "But I hope people will equally understand that it will be better to get the decision right rather than rushing into something that will not stand the test of time."

Mr. Clegg held talks with Conservative leader David Cameron on Sunday and they spoke again Monday. They are trying to strike a deal that would see a Conservative-led government take power in Britain.

The Conservatives won the most votes in last week's election and won the most seats in parliament, but they did not win an overall majority.

London School of Economics political analyst Tony Travers says the Liberal Democrats are likely to give the Conservatives the support they need in order to form a government.

"As of now all the mood music suggests that they will manage to create an agreement," said Travers.

But he says Mr. Clegg may choose to provide parliamentary support for the Conservatives without forming a coalition. The Liberal Democrats, in this scenario, would agree not to vote down key government policies such as the budget.

Mr. Clegg opened talks first with the Conservatives because they won the most votes. But if the two parties fail to make an agreement, Mr. Clegg could side with Labor, giving the party that has led Britain for more than a decade a chance to hold on to power. Mr. Clegg and Labor leader Gordon Brown met for talks Sunday.

Mr. Brown is still officially Prime Minister of Britain, but Travers says he is not in a strong position.

"Gordon Brown is like a man sitting, waiting in an execution room in many ways," said Travers. "I mean at any moment he could get the phone call saying it is all over the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have made an agreement, there will be a Conservative prime minister. And Gordon Brown would then have to set off to the palace to resign."

Politicians on all sides say the stability of Britain's economy is central to talks.

Political history lecturer Lawrence Black, from Britain's Durham University, says the financial markets want to see an end to the political deadlock and immediate moves to downsize Britain's record budget deficit. But he says speed is not necessarily the number-one priority.

"The key thing is an economically viable coalition more than one that is reached with great speed - something that is going to reassure the markets that the economic problems are really top of the agenda," Black said.

The Conservatives won the most seats in Britain's parliament, but were 20 seats short of an absolute majority.

Britain's electorate last returned a hung parliament in 1974.

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