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UK heads to the polls in general election

Millions of Britons have begun casting their votes in the UK's general election. The latest polls show Ed Miliband's Labour and David Cameron's Conservatives are neck and neck in the race for 10 Downing Street.

Polling stations across Great Britain and Northern Ireland opened at 7 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) on Thursday for what many have described as the country's most unpredictable election in a generation.

Some 50 million registered voters are expected to head to the polling stations from where 650 Westminster MPs will be elected.

The UK currently follows a

'first past the post' voting system

, meaning that a party must win 326 of the 650 seats up for grabs to have a single party government. This figure is reduced to 323, however, as the five Irish republican MPs of Irish republican party Sinn Fein reject Westminster's rule in Northern Ireland and do not attend.

'Hung parliament' likely

Ed Miliband and David Cameron

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory Prime Minister David Cameron were neck and neck ahead of Thursday's election

In the last election in 2010, the Tories managed to win 303 seats, which resulted in the Conservatives forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who won just 22 percent of the popular vote. A coalition of this composition hadn't been seen in British politics since Winston Churchill's Conservative-led coalition between May 1940 and May 1945.

The UK looks likely to wake up to a "hung parliament" for the second consecutive election on Friday, as polls ahead of Thursday's election showed

the Conservatives and Labour

both hovering in the region of around 280 seats.

DW's Mark Hallam tweeted an overview of the British Press' take on election day.

With current Prime Minister Cameron promising a referendum on the UK's continued membership in the European Union (EU) if he's re-elected, neighboring European powers will be watching this year's UK election with particular interest.

Dwindling turnout

Alongside votes for the general election, ballots will also be cast on Thursday for more than 9,000 council seats across 279 English local authorities.

Polling station, Edinburgh

Some 50 million registered voters are due to cast their vote

In the English cities of Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay, voters will also be electing a mayor.

In the last election, just 65.1 percent of the UK's eligible electorate voted - an improvement, however, on 2005's figures, which saw a voter turnout of 61.4 percent.

Polls stations across the UK, which have been set up in schools, parish halls and even pubs and a launderette will close at 10 p.m. local time on Thursday (2100 UTC), with a final result expected by Friday afternoon.

ksb/gsw (Reuters, AFP)

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