No one party will be able to come up with the magic number of 323 that it takes to form a government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in today's national election.
This is a rarity in British politics as this is a full-term government. Most of the time a prime minister of the ruling party will try to pad the numbers in the House of Commons by calling a "snap" election when their polling numbers are considered awesome enough.
The scorecard for us Americans is of the major parties in parliament now.
The semi-ruling party is the Conservatives led by David Cameron. It is the largest center-right party in the U.K.
The opposition is the Labour party and is the largest left-wing party in the U.K. The leader of the Labour party is Ed Milliband.
To be honest, neither leader is all that. They come off as boring technocrats. One on the right and one on the left.
Ahh, but this election has three minor parties that can claim the balance of power.
Currently the junior partner in the coalition government is the Liberal Democrats, the center-left party in the U. K. It is led by Nick Clegg.
But two upstart minor parties could be big players in a future government as well.
The United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, is essentially the British variation of the Tea Party. It is led by the colorful Nigel Farage.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party has surged and may be on the verge of winning all 59 possible seats in Scotland, thus dealing a blow to the Labour party in hopes of forming a coalition government.
The seemingly unlikely scenario is that one of the major parties wins the requisite number of seats and the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II asks that party to form the government.
One scenario is one of the major parties, which ever one emerges with the most seats, will form a weak, minority government. If that happens, look for another election very quickly.
Then there is an outside chance that the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will be able to form again. It is expected that the Liberal Democrats will lose seats in today's vote.
For the right, the nightmare scenario could be that for the Conservatives to form a government, and if the UKIP scores enough seats (it already has two, both former Conservatives.), a possible coalition between these two forces.
For the left, the nightmare is for Labour to grovel at the SNP to form a government. The SNP is running to have another referendum on the question of Scottish independence from the U.K. It would be hard for the Labour party to justify a government with a party that wants to leave the U.K. in about two years or less.
But here is what I believe will happen.
The grandest of coalitions will occur, with a little of the left (the Liberal Democrats), a little of the right (the UKIP) and the center-right (the Conservatives). Between the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the UKIP, they would be able to have a tenuous but sustainable government for about a year.
This is the best primer on all the possible outcomes.
Whatever the results are, it does appear that the U. K. is in for a rocky year at least and voters will be the ones to blame in a sense. Weak leaders are a reason the polls for the big parties are so close.
The government will be a weak one, but keep the U.K. from causing world-wide economic panic.
Remember, the magic number is 323.
Here are two good links for complete election coverage; Sky News and the BBC.