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UK heads to the polls after campaign marred by terror attacks

  • Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. London time Thursday and will close at 10:00 p.m.
  • The main flurry of results are expected from 2.00 a.m. London time on Friday
  • There are 650 constituencies due to announce
  • A burst of late polls on Wednesday gave the Conservatives a lead ranging from 5 to 12 percentage points

Polls have opened in the U.K. General Election which is seen as crucial to the strength of the country's negotiating position as it nears an exit from the European Union.

The ruling Conservative party, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, is looking to increase the 17-seat parliamentary majority that it currently holds in the House of Commons.

The opposition Labour party is unlikely to win an outright majority, according to the polls, but could force a hung parliament where neither side holds more than half of the seats. If that was the case, it would be up to each side to try to form a dominant alliance with smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats or Scottish National Party.

On April 18, May surprised onlookers by calling Thursday's snap election stating that "division risks the ability to make a success of Brexit."

At that point the Conservative ruling government was polling as much as 22 points clear of the main opposition Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn. However, as the campaign progressed the polls narrowed sharply.

A burst of late polls on Wednesday gave the Conservatives a lead ranging from 5 to 12 percentage points over the Labour party, according to Reuters, suggesting that May would increase her majority. Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. London time Thursday and will close at 10:00 p.m. There will be an exit poll as soon as voting finishes and results will start to come in an hour after that. The main flurry of results are expected from 2.00 a.m. London time on Friday and there are 650 constituencies due to announce.

The Conservative campaign has attempted to focus on the withdrawal from the EU, repeating a mantra that only it can offer a "strong and stable" government as negotiations with Brussels heat up. This strategy has worked to an extent with polls on leadership consistently backing May over Corbyn as a more trusted leader.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has said he will honor Brexit but at the same time attempt to retain the benefits of the single market - a tariff free trading bloc for members of the European Union.

Terror comes to the fore

The United Kingdom has suffered three separate incidents of "terror attacks" in just three months. After apparent lone wolf incidents in Westminster and Manchester, a group of men carried out a further attack in London on Saturday evening.

A combined death toll of 36 people on the streets of Britain has pushed the issue of security to the fore of the election with both main parties accusing the other of weakness. Corbyn was criticized in the media for appearing weak on a "shoot to kill" policy and has apologized for statements made in the past describing Middle East factions Hamas and Hezbollah as "friends".

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have also felt a backlash over security. In her previous role as Home Secretary, Theresa May was responsible for the cutting of the U.K.'s police force numbers and she has had to answer tricky accusations that this has put the nation at a greater risk of terror.