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Election in the UK is Likely This Year 03/01 06:48

   

   LONDON (AP) -- The United Kingdom is poised to hold its first election in 
five years in a country battered by a cost-of-living crisis, fallout from the 
Israel-Hamas conflict and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and 
asylum seekers crossing the English Channel from Europe on small inflatable 
boats.

   Here is a look at the upcoming election and the biggest issues at stake.

   When is the election in the United Kingdom?

   Prime Minister Rishi Sunak can call an election at any time up to Dec. 17, 
with the election taking place 25 working days later. That means the last 
possible date for the election is Jan. 28, 2025.

   The timing of the election will be determined by Sunak's calculation of what 
date will be most advantageous for the Conservatives. The most likely time for 
the election is in the autumn, according to the Institute for Government, a 
London-based think tank. But one can't be sure.

   How does voting work in the United Kingdom?

   People throughout the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the 
House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a 
majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next 
government and its leader will be prime minister.

   That means the results will determine the political direction of the 
government, which has been led by the center-right Conservatives for the past 
14 years. Opinion polls suggest that Labour is currently in the strongest 
position.

   Who is running in the United Kingdom?

   Sunak, a former Treasury chief who has been prime minister since October of 
2022, is expected to lead his party into the election. His primary opponent 
will be Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions in England and 
leader of the Labour Party since April 2020.

   But there are other parties, some of which have strong regional support and 
could be crucial to forming a coalition government if no one wins an overall 
majority.

   The Scottish National Party, which campaigns for Scottish independence; 
Liberal Democrats; and Democratic Unionist Party, which seeks to maintain ties 
between Britain and Northern Ireland, are currently the three largest parties 
in Parliament after the Conservatives and Labour. Some observers suggest the 
new Reform Party, formed by Tory rebels, may siphon votes from the 
Conservatives.

   What are the big issues at stake in the United Kingdom?

   The economy: Britain has struggled with high inflation and slow economic 
growth, which have combined to make most people feel poorer. The Conservatives 
succeeded in meeting their goal of halving inflation, which peaked at 11.1% in 
October 2022, but the economy slipped into a technical recession in the last 
six months of 2023, raising questions about the government's economic policies.

   Immigration: Thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants have crossed 
the English Channel in flimsy inflatable boats in recent years, raising 
concerns the government has lost control of Britain's borders. The 
Conservatives' signature policy for stopping the boats is a plan t o deport 
some of these migrants to Rwanda. Critics say the plan violates international 
law, is inhumane, and will do nothing to stop people fleeing war, unrest and 
famine.

   Health care: Britain's National Health Service, which provides free health 
care to everyone, is plagued with long waiting lists for everything from dental 
care to cancer treatment. Newspapers are filled with stories about seriously 
ill patients forced to wait hours for an ambulance, then longer still for a 
hospital bed.

   The environment: Sunak has backtracked on a series of environmental 
commitments, pushing back the deadline for ending the sale of gasoline- and 
diesel-powered passenger vehicles and authorizing new oil drilling in the North 
Sea. Critics say these are the wrong policies at a time the world is trying to 
combat climate change.

 
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