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British prime minister might try to form coalition government

LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown indicated today he might attempt to form a coalition government, seeking to keep his Labour Party in power following an election in which the Conservatives were projected to claim the most seats but not get a majority in Parliament.

The exit polls reflected uncertainty over who will form the next government and Britain's top three parties - the Conservatives led by David Cameron, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - immediately began jockeying to form alliances.

Speaking in his home district in Scotland, Brown vowed to "play my part in Britain having a strong, stable and principled government," the clearest sign yet that he would try to cling to power and seek an alliance with the third-place Liberal Democrats.

Brown also pledged action on election reform - a key demand of his would-be partners.

Turnout for yesterday's vote appeared to be high and hundreds of people across the country were prevented from voting when polls closed at 10 p.m. The head of Britain's Electoral Commission said legal challenges to some ballot results were likely from those turned away.

Police had to go to one polling station in east London after 50 angry residents who were denied the chance to vote staged a sit-in protest. Voters in Sheffield, Newcastle and elsewhere in London also complained that they had been blocked from voting.

An analysis by Britain's main television stations suggested the Conservatives will win 305 of the 650 House of Commons seats, short of the 326 seats needed for a majority. Labour was seen winning 255 seats and the Liberal Democrats 61, far less than had been expected after their support surged during the campaign.

If the projections stand, political wrangling and uncertainty is ahead for one of the world's largest economies - a prospect that could unsettle global markets already reeling from the Greek debt crisis and fears of wider debt contagion in Europe.

Before the vote, a somber warning came from the European Union: Britain's budget deficit is set to eclipse even that of Greece next year. Whoever winds up in power faces the daunting challenge of introducing big budget cuts to slash Britain's huge deficit.

Initially, the British pound sank to its lowest point in a year at $1.4715, but later recovered ground.

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