The vote is in, and it’s … well, the British don’t really know what to make of it yet.
The UK general election, to choose all 650 members of parliament, has produced a bit of a surprise result in which no-one is the clear winner.
Here’s what a foreign reader with no background needs to know.
In a nutshell, what’s the result?
The ruling Conservative party (nicknamed the Tories), which thought it was going to increase its numbers in parliament, has instead lost seats – and its slim majority of 330 (326 is the magic number).
Instead, the opposition Labour party has won back many seats.
To cap it all off, Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t need to call this election – she did so because she thought she’d win a landslide. The result is being seen as a major defeat for her.
What happens next? And what’s a ‘hung parliament’?
Remember that the UK is still a monarchy of sorts. There’s lots of tradition involved.
This scenario is what Brits call a “hung parliament” – which just means that no party has a clear majority by itself.
Coalition or minority governments are fairly common in European countries like France, Germany, or close neighbour Ireland – but some in Britain tend to see them as unstable.
What happens now is that the largest party will ask permission from the Queen to form a government – if they can.
Conservatives are going to attempt it, relying on the backing of other parties – most likely the DUP from Northern Ireland.
If they can’t, then Labour, the opposition, might try to put together a minority government. Or – always a possibility – there could be another election.
Ok. Does this affect Brexit? Will Britain leave the EU?
In the short term, this is a bit of a problem.
Negotiations for the UK leaving the EU are due to start on 20 June, just 11 days after the election. It’s possible the UK won’t even have a government in place by then.
Even if there is one, Theresa May’s whole reason for calling the election was to stop “political game-playing” from other parties and give her the political clout to push through Brexit issues.
Instead, she has less power, and will need other parties to back her to even form a government at all.
The two largest parties both back Brexit, it’s just a question of detail. The entire process is less stable now.
But, even if there is a delay in getting started, Brexit negotiations will happen – sooner or later.
So, this is bad for the prime minister?
By the morning rush hour, Theresa May was “holed up inside” her official residence, our political correspondent said, “her political gamble having gone so badly wrong”.
Even before the last few results came in, chatter had already started about resignation – which is not uncommon in the UK.
Her main opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, declared she had “lost votes, lost support and lost confidence”, and “I would have thought that’s enough to go, actually”.
Theresa May reportedly says she’ll stay on, regardless. But talk of her future prospects is everywhere.
What about Jeremy Corbyn?
Jeremy is sometimes compared to US politician Bernie Sanders. He’s an unusual party leader who has pulled off a personal victory here.
The lifelong socialist only put his name down for the Labour leadership because no other left-winger wanted to. Bookies gave him odds of 200/1 – but he won anyway, thanks to ordinary members’ votes.
But the bicycle-riding, gardening, socialist leader didn’t have the support of other Labour MPs – who almost immediately tried to push him out. He survived.
And while Labour technically lost this election, they made big gains over the 2015 vote. Anecdotal evidence – to be taken with a pinch of salt – suggests the youth vote turned out for Labour in a big way.
Owen Smith, who ran against Mr Corbyn for leadership, said: “I was clearly wrong in feeling Jeremy wouldn’t be able to do this. He proved me wrong and lots of people wrong, and I take my hat off to him.”
Another election? How often do the British vote?
An election could take place in a matter of weeks, but only if the negotiations break down and no-one can form any kind of government.
It might seem like there’s a lot of politics right now, but that’s because:
- There was a 2014 vote on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom
- There was a 2015 general election, as scheduled
- The winning party had promised an EU Brexit vote
- When the “leave” campaign won Brexit, the prime minister resigned, so we got a new one
- The new prime minister called a snap election – this one
In theory, a government has a set five-year term, so the next election is due in 2022.
But – as we’ve seen – an unexpected election can be called at any time if MPs agree to it, or if the government collapses.
What about Scottish independence?
The Scottish National Party (SNP) had suggested the possibility of another referendum on Scottish independence, in the wake of the Brexit vote (Scotland mostly wants to stay in the EU).
They entered the election campaign in a very dominant position, holding 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland – and were expected to lose some seats, which they did, to a Conservatives surge.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney admitted that the possibility of a second referendum on independence had played a “significant” role in the result.
Having lost 21 seats as a result, it’s very unclear what happens next with the SNP’s campaign for independence.
Where can I read more in-depth material?
Want to read more? The BBC is covering this election and all the developments in depth.