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Election 2010: our guide to a hung parliament
So, with all this talk of balanced and hung parliaments, we thought we'd put together a duffers guide to explain what COULD happen tomorrow.
What constitutes a majority?
Whoever forms a government needs to know they have enough votes to pass the Queen's Speech on May 25 - considered a confidence vote - where they lay out their priorities and plans for their term in power.
There are 650 seats being contested tomorrow, which means in theory a majority is 326 seats.
However the Speaker and his deputies don't vote. There are five Sinn Fein MPs who refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen and so are not allowed to vote.
So in practice, if the biggest party has 320 seats or less and the other parties in combination have 321 or more, that's a hung parliament.
The Tories need to win an extra 116 seats to gain what's called an absolute majority. Labour will lose their majority if they lose 24 seats. The Liberal Democrats would need an extra 264 seats.
What happens if there's no majority?
Well, although all our MPs have lost their titles since the election was called, Gordon Brown is still Prime Minster.
He's not supposed to resign his post until a new Prime Minster has been appointed, even if Labour comes third in the vote. He's also traditionally supposed to get the first chance to put together a new parliament.
So he will be hoping the Liberal Democrats will do a deal with Labour Party, even if it means him resigning as PM.
Mr Cameron has hinted that he would ignore that convention and try to form a minority government (see below). But if the Conservatives are long way short or a majority, Mr Cameron would need to do a deal with the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg.
If Gordon Brown has to resign in order to seal a Lib-Lab deal, or if the Tories win outright, it's his job to "recommend" to the Queen who is likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons.
That person (or possibly persons, in case of a coalition) would be called to the palace and invited to form a government.
Is that the end?
Not neccessarily. The opposing parties can pose a "motion of confidence" in the new goverment even before the Queen's Speech, if they feel they have enough votes to win, or they can wait for the Queen's Speech and try and vote the new Government out.
If the new Government loses the Queen's Speech vote or a motion of confidence, it is expected to immediately dissolve and a second election could be triggered.
David Cameron has hinted that, should the Conservatives be close to a majority, he will "demand the keys to Downing Street" [interesting fact - there is no keyhole in the door of Number 10] and try to form a minority government.
He would rely on media pressure to try and force Gordon Brown to resign and then hope to win the Queen's Speech vote despite being in the minority.
But Mr Brown doesn't HAVE to resign and is constitutionally entitled to stay in his post and present his own Queen's Speech, regardless of whether he's made a deal with any other party.
But if he lost that vote, Mr Cameron would then be invited to form a government.
The role of the Queen
The Queen is not supposed to become politicised and the parties are supposed to agree between themselves what will happen.
Guidance written in 1974 says the Queen CAN call on someone other than Brown or Cameron to form a government - ie a different figure from the Labour party - but she is not supposed to act as a broker in any way between the parties.
Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell has written guidelines in a bid to clarify the position and avoid a scenario where the Queen would be dragged into making a choice.
They say: "Where a range of different administrations could potentially be formed, the expectation is that discussions will take place between political parties on who should form the next Government.
"The Monarch would not expect to become involved in such discussions."
They also say that a second general election would only be called if there was no possibility of one party or coalition winning a Queen's Speech vote.
Who would be Leader of the Opposition?
Leader of the Opposition is a big job with a large salary.Who gets it has never been an issue before. But if the Liberal Democrats get more votes than Labour but have fewer MPs, and David Cameron were to become Prime Minister, it's likely there would be confusion.
Convention says it should be the leader of the larger party, which would be Labour, but the Lib Dems would be very unlikely to be happy with that as an outcome.
Please note I'm not a constitutional expert, so if you think I've made a glaring howler here, feel free to email me and say so!
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