British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election for June 8. Here’s a brief look at what happens now, and what’s at stake.
WHY DID MAY MAKE HER MOVE?
May took power in July, after David Cameron resigned following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. A new ballot offers her the chance to seek her own mandate and to increase the Conservative Party’s narrow majority in the House of Commons, where it holds 330 of 650 seats.
Britain formally triggered the process for leaving the EU last month, but more turmoil is in store as the country negotiates a divorce that will affect every aspect of life in the U.K.
IS IT A DONE DEAL?
British prime ministers used to have the power to call elections at will, but the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, passed in 2011, makes things more complicated. Under the act, national elections are held every five years, in May. The prime minister can call an early election if two-thirds of lawmakers support it.
May will ask the House of Commons to vote on the snap election on Wednesday. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has said he welcomes an election, meaning the election call will almost certainly pass
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Negotiations to leave the EU will be arduous. The talks will deal with money, trade, defense, to name but a few key topics. If May were to gain more seats, she would be able to have more freedom to pursue her own agenda, and to neutralize those inside and outside her own party who disagree with her positions.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Britain has 650 constituencies from which voters select a local lawmaker. The party with the most lawmakers wins a working majority and is allowed to install its leader as prime minister and implement its manifesto promises.
WHO COULD WIN?
Elections are always unpredictable, but bookmakers consider May’s Conservative Party a strong favorite to win. Opinion polls released last weekend showed the Conservatives with a double-digit lead over the opposition Labour Party, which has been weakened by a split between moderates and left-wing leader Corbyn.
ARE THERE RISKS?
Anytime a leader goes to the people for a vote, there are risks, as Cameron learned to his peril when he lost the vote on Britain’s departure from the EU just over a year after winning re-election.