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British election: Exit polls indicate 86-seat majority for Conservative Party

By
Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his dog leave a polling station in Westminster Thursday after casting a ballot in Britain's third general election in four years. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his dog leave a polling station in Westminster Thursday after casting a ballot in Britain's third general election in four years. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party looks set to secure an 86-seat majority in Parliament, exit polls predicted Thursday.

The exit polls, which are not an official tally of votes, give the Conservative Party 368 seats in Parliament, with Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party coming in second with 191 seats. If the prediction holds, the margin all but gives Johnson the support he needs to pass his Brexit deal.

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The poll gives Conservatives 51 more seats than they had in the 2017 election, while Labor would lose 71 seats. The Scottish Nationalist Party would have 55 seats, Liberal Democrats would have 13 seats, Plaid Cymru would earn three seats, Greens one seat and all others would have 22 seats.

Labor International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner described the results as a "devastating blow" for his party.

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Voter turnout was high across Britain for what's being called the "most important general election in a generation."

Millions of Britons cast their ballots to decide members of Parliament -- and, by extension, a multitude of issues like Britain's departure from the European Union -- following the whirlwind campaigns of candidates across the country.

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Thursday's was the third election in Britain since 2015 and the first December election in almost 100 years.

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The vote will determine membership in the House of Commons, as well as Britain's next prime minister. Johnson has filled the post since Theresa May left in July, but his failure to pass an agreement to leave the EU prompted him in October to call for new elections.

Corbyn was Johnson's challenger for the post of prime minister.

Polls initially showed the once-comfortable lead of the Conservative Party had dwindled over the final weeks of the 52-day campaign. Johnson and opponents -- including Corbyn, Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish Nationalist Party -- spent Wednesday furiously seeking votes in what each conceded would be a very tight contest.

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All four cast their votes Thursday after spending Wednesday making final pitches across Britain.

Johnson, who sought an outright majority in Parliament in order to pass his EU withdrawal agreement, campaigned on the theme "get Brexit done" in Yorkshire, Wales and London. Corbyn visited six locations and urged Britons to "vote for hope," while Swinson, whose party has vowed to stay in the EU, concentrated on areas that voted to "remain" in the 2016 referendum.

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The deadline for Britain to depart the 28-member bloc has been postponed several times. Johnson has said he planned to complete the withdrawal by the current Jan. 31 deadline, at the latest.

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A variety of outcomes appear possible -- from Conservatives gaining a landmark majority of 70 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, to a hung Parliament, in which the Labor Party could form a governing coalition with other parties and stage a second EU referendum.

Britain's 40,000 polling stations close at 10 p.m.

Authorities said they arrested a man after finding a suspicious device at a polling station in Motherwell, Scotland. Voters were directed to an alternate ballot site and the device was detonated. Motherwell is located 10 miles southeast of Glasgow.

In Cardiff, Wales, elections officials said up to 200 students were unable to vote Thursday after their voter registration applications were rejected because they filled out their forms incorrectly. The students allegedly left their addresses incomplete.

The Cardiff council said it spent "considerable time" trying to contact the affected students before Thursday's election.

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