BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 11:01 UK

What is a hung parliament?

If one party has an absolute majority it means it has more MPs than all the other parties put together
If no party has an absolute majority then there is a hung parliament. If all smaller parties join forces they can outvote the government.
Instead the bigger parties can try to persuade smaller parties to support them.
The general election has created a hung parliament.

The general election has created a hung parliament.

A hung parliament is one in which no party has an overall majority, which means no party has more than half of MPs in the House of Commons.

It means that whichever party ends up in power will not be able to win votes to pass laws without the support of members of other parties.

That support may come in the form of a formal coalition with smaller parties, or the governing party may have to negotiate with other parties to get laws passed.

In the simplest terms, to get an absolute majority, a party would have needed to win 326 seats.

In reality, an effective majority could be smaller because the speaker and his deputies, although members of parliament, do not usually vote.

Also, Sinn Fein have five MPs, who in the last parliament refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen and as a result were not entitled to vote.

Nonetheless, the election results mean that no party can pass laws without support from other parties.

The BBC's David Dimbleby looks back to February 1974 - the last time an election produced a hung parliament

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