Britain's national election looks likely to deny any of the three major political parties an outright majority, creating the first so-called "hung Parliament" since 1974. Here are the potential scenarios.
— CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT: David Cameron's main opposition Conservative Party will likely win the largest number of House of Commons seats, but will fall short of a majority. Sitting as a minority government, Cameron would seek support from the third-placed Liberal Democrats and minor parties to pass votes to endorse an emergency budget aimed at cutting the country's 152.84 billion pound ($235.9 billion) deficit. Cameron would likely call a second election within a year to seek a majority.
— LABOUR PACT WITH CLEGG: To cling to power, Gordon Brown's Labour Party may seek a formal coalition, or looser pact, with the Liberal Democrats and their leader Nick Clegg. An alliance between the two would form a bloc with more seats than Cameron's Conservatives. But Clegg would likely demand Brown be replaced as prime minister and insist upon a referendum on moving to a European-style proportional voting system.
— CONSERVATIVE PACT WITH CLEGG: If Cameron's party is left well short of the 326 Commons seats needed to win a majority, it may seek a pact with the Liberal Democrats. Though opposed on many policies — including electoral reform — the two could strike a short-term agreement aimed at tackling Britain's deficit. Both regard economic remedies as a priority.
— CONSERVATIVE PACT WITH MINOR PARTY: Should Cameron find himself only a handful of seats short of a working majority, he will likely seek a pact with one of Britain's minor parties. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists, which currently hold eight seats, are likely to be courted as a partner.
— QUICK SECOND ELECTION: If Cameron formed a minority government but was unable to win enough votes to pass his legislative program, or if a pact between two parties quickly collapsed, Britain could have a quick second election. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, both pressed for funds, may struggle to afford a second campaign.