UKIP wins first parliamentary seat
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) secured its first ever seat in the Commons, Britain's lower house, by a wide margin.
In results announced early on Friday, euroskeptic candidate Douglas Carswell won 21,113 votes - 60 percent of ballots cast - gaining more than twice as many votes as his nearest rival.
The one-off "by-election" on Thursday was forced when Carswell, who had served as a member of parliament with David Cameron's center-right Conservative party, defected to UKIP and resigned his seat.
The candidate fielded by the Conservatives in Carswell's place, Giles Watling, got 8,709 votes while the opposition Labour Party's Tim Young managed just 3,957.
UKIP, whose leader Nigel Farage has been described as both charismatic and divisive, also ran the center-left Labour Party a very close second in the northern English constituency of Heywood and Middleton.
Paper-thin Labour majority
Labour's Liz McInnes received 11,633 votes, with UKIP's John Bickley gaining 11,016 - a margin of just 617 votes compared with 5,971 in the 2010 general election. The Conservatives came third with just 3,496 votes.
The Heywood and Middleton by-election was made necessary by the death of long-serving Labour member of parliament Jim Dobbin.
A further by-election is set to take place later this month in the southern constituency of Rochester and Strood, after Conservative member Mark Reckless also defected to UKIP.
UKIP, which has said it wants to curb immigration and take Britain out of the EU, has gained growing support from voters who say they are disillusioned with the mainstream parties in parliament.
UKIP took the largest share of British votes in May elections for the European Parliament but it has never before had a lawmaker elected to the Westminster parliament.
The success of UKIP highlights the threat it poses in splitting the vote of the Conservatives - and possibly Labour - just seven months ahead of a general election.
rc/lw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)