The polls have barely shifted in the last few weeks of the UK’s General Election, making this year’s race one of Britain’s most unusual political campaigns in recent history.
Since the end of 2014, we’ve seen Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives close the gap to Labour, but both are now hovering around 33-34%.
UKIP is still holding up at around 13% of the national vote.
The Green surge seems to have abated somewhat with the party sitting around 4-5%.
The Lib Dems appear stuck at between 9-10%.
And the Scottish National Party looks set to all but wipe Labour out in Scotland by taking as many as 50 seats north of the border.
Since 1979, only three election campaigns (1992, 1997, and 2005) saw less movement in the polls than we’ve seen over the past year.
In terms of seat projections, this means that neither of the UK’s two biggest parties look set to secure anything close to an outright majority of 323 seats (discounting Sinn Féin MPs who don’t take their seats in parliament).
So we’re now almost certain to get a coalition government (Election Forecast UK puts the probability of a hung parliaments at 97%).
But who looks more likely to form it? Here are some possible scenarios:
Here’s what that chart looks like when the parties are broken out:
Two things to note from this chart. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives look very likely to be able to form a stable government with the Liberal Democrats alone. That is significant, because it means that at least one of the UK’s smaller parties is likely to hold the balance of power for the first time since the 1970s where SNP votes helped to bring down James Callaghan’s Labour government.
The second thing worth pointing out is that the Conservatives are now overwhelming favourites to secure the largest number of seats. This could be very important since last week Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told the BBC that he would give the party with the largest number of seats the first chance to form a government.
He said: “In a democracy, the party with the greatest mandate from the British people — even though they haven’t got a majority — seems to me, to us, to be the party that has the right to try to assemble a government first. They may not succeed, but they should surely be given a chance to succeed.”
If he can persuade the Democratic Unionists to join him, he could come within 10 seats of security a stable government (if current polling proves a good guide to the result). But at this stage it’s getting harder and harder to see where those 10 seats are going to come from.
If he fails, it now looks hard to imagine Labour being able to do any better without entering into talks with the SNP — something that Clegg has ruled out for his party. That, then, leaves the prospect of a second election on the table.
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