Britain’s opposition Conservatives have won most seats in Thursday’s general election but failed to gain an overall majority.
The pound tumbled, Britain’s top share index extended this week’s rout and gilt futures went into reverse as the inconclusive election – the first since 1974 without an overall majority – unnerved investors jittery about Europe's mounting debt crisis.
With 649 of the 650 seats counted, the centre-right Conservatives have 306, ruling Labour 258 and the Liberal Democrats 57. The Conservatives did not reach the 326 seats needed for an outright majority in parliament.
Conservative leader David Cameron said the ruling Labour party had "lost its mandate to govern". However Prime Minister Gordon Brown has the right under the constitution to try to form a government first, potentially opening the door to a period of political horse-trading.
Both party leaders made their case on Friday for a coalition with the Lib Dems.
Cameron said he was ready to govern Britain and was putting forward a "comprehensive and open offer" to the Lib Dems to help him form a government. Brown promised to back the Lib Dem's call for electoral reforms, but also opened negotiations with the smaller Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties.
The Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg did not immediately respond in public but said earlier that the party that had gained the most seats and the most votes should have "the first right to seek to govern".
Brown has asked the cabinet secretary, Britain's most senior civil servant, to arrange support for all parties that might be involved in talks over a possible future coalition government.
swissinfo.ch and agencies
In compliance with the JTI standards