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UK election shock: David Cameron set to defy polls with clear victory

Pundits had predicted the UK elections would be a close one and suggested there would be days of post-vote, back-room talk to thrash out a power-sharing deal.

Instead, this is turning into a thumpin'.

British Prime Minister David Cameron stays in power, with his party, the Conservatives, stronger than at the last election in 2010.

It picked up more seats, and as votes continued to be counted Friday, CNN's UK affiliate ITN suggested the center-right Conservatives would win an absolute majority.

What this means for the UK is that the Conservatives get to govern alone, after five years in coalition.

What this means for the rest of the world is what we should be paying attention to, even if we were not one of the millions of Brits who cast a ballot.

The outcome of this vote could reshape the country's global role for years: Britain's relationships with the European Union, NATO and the United States could all be affected.

And a strong showing by the Scottish National Party could fuel a fresh push for Scottish independence.

Domestically, the Conservatives have said they'll push forward with reforms to tackle the huge UK deficit and rein in spending on the welfare state, as well as holding a national referendum on continued membership of the European Union by 2017.

Financial markets, primed for days of uncertainty, responded positively to the prospect of a clear outcome.

Cameron is due to meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) Friday -- a formal step toward forming a government. He is then expected to give a statement from Downing Street.

The losers

While the Conservative Party was the clear winner, there were plenty of losers.

Chief among them, the opposition Labour Party.

\"It has clearly been a very difficult and disappointing night for the Labour Party,\" Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, told supporters as he retained his own seat.

That is a major understatement.

It was a massive blow to Labour. It didn't gain seats in the places it badly needed to. And it was blown out of the water in Scotland by the pro-independence SNP.

Miliband cited a \"surge of nationalism in Scotland\" as having affected the Labour Party's results. His future as party leader could be in question after such a disastrous showing.

Perhaps the biggest scalp claimed by the Conservatives at Labour's expense was that of Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor and a senior Labour Party figure, who lost his seat by just 422 votes.

Another loser was the Liberal Democrat party. They were the junior partners in the previous coalition government with the Conservatives. They too had an awful night.

They lost several key figures -- chief among them Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Vince Cable, the Business Secretary; and Simon Hughes, former deputy leader of the party and a former London mayoral candidate.

Current leader Nick Clegg, who was Deputy Prime Minister, held his seat. But he said it had been \"a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats\" and indicated he was reviewing his position as party leader.

Menzies Campbell, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats said: \"For us we must go back and once again build up from the bottom, from the bottom up which is the only way to do it.\"

The UK Independence Party also had a bad night, despite increasing its overall share of the vote.

The party held only one of its two seats and leader Nigel Farage failed in his own election bid. Speaking after the result was announced, he said it was time for \"real, genuine, radical political change\" to the British electoral system to ensure that smaller parties are represented in parliament.

The winners

Cameron and his party clearly come out on top. The Prime Minister held his seat, as did Chancellor George Osborne -- Britain's finance minister -- while London Mayor Boris Johnson claimed his place in parliament for the Conservatives.

Speaking after winning his seat, Cameron said: \"My aim remains simple - to govern on the basis of governing for everyone in our United Kingdom.\"

This includes making sure that the country's economic recovery reaches everyone, including its poorest citizens, he said.

\"Above all, I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised and came together with other parties to agree both for Wales and for Scotland.\"

The Scottish push

Another big winner is the SNP.

In one of the biggest shock upsets of the night, 20-year-old politics student Mhairi Black became Britain's youngest lawmaker since 1667 -- ousting one of Labour's top figures in the process. Her victory for the SNP toppled Douglas Alexander, Labour's election chief and a former Cabinet minister.

Labour's Scottish leader, Jim Murphy, lost his parliamentary seat to Kirsten Oswald, another largely unknown challenger, while former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's old seat also went to the nationalists.

The SNP's Alex Salmond, the party's former leader who pushed for the unsuccessful independence referendum last year, won a seat at Westminster.

Salmond said no matter what the final tally is, the result is clear.

\"We're seeing an electoral tsunami on a gigantic scale,\" he told ITN, \"and that is a tide flowing with the Scottish National Party.\"

A big win for the party could accelerate the resurgent momentum toward another Scottish independence referendum in the years to come.

But gaining independence for Scotland isn't the only issue on the Scottish National Party's agenda. It also wants to end Britain's nuclear weapons program, which could have an impact on the country's relationship with NATO.

Nicola Sturgeon, its current leader and the winner of much acclaim during the campaign, said her party's MPs had promised they \"would be elected to make Scotland's voice heard and that's exactly what we intend to do.\"

But, she said, they would also seek \"to work with others across the UK, to try to get more progressive politics at the heart of Westminster.\"

The 'repeat rebels'

While it looks like Cameron won't need a coalition partner this time around, governing with such a slender majority won't be easy.

\"Although people will portray this as as a great Conservative victory -- and against the expectations it is -- Cameron's problems now are only just beginning because, if he's only got a very small majority, he's going to be in hock to the extreme right wing of his party,\" said Professor Robert Hazell, of University College London. This right wing includes 10 to 20 \"repeat rebels,\" Hazell said, who could cause Cameron major headaches.

For the moment, though, he can give a big sigh of relief and savor the sweet taste of victory over Labour.

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