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The week ahead

A general election in Britain that’s too close to call

• BRITAIN goes to the polls on Thursday May 6th for what should be the closest election in many years. Most opinion polls suggest that an unexpected surge by the country’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, is likely to mean that neither Labour nor the Conservatives wins a majority of seats in Westminster. In the event of a hung Parliament, an unusual outcome with Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system, the leaders of all three main parties will embark on a series of negotiations to determine whether the Lib Dems, if they hold the balance of power, are prepared to form a coalition or support a minority government.

• EUROPE’S plan to control the contagion spreading across the continent as a result of Greece’s fiscal woes will be put to the people who have to pay the bill. Greece announced that it had struck a deal with the EU and the IMF on May 2nd. But during the week Germany and France are set to hold parliamentary votes on the rescue package. Indignation with the feckless Greeks will be great. Denunciations of France and Germany for their past willingness to ignore the EU fiscal rules laid down by the misleadingly-named Stability and Growth Pact will be less common. Now may not be the time to get introspective, though. Ratings agencies have already downgraded the debt of Portugal and Spain. Other European countries with big government debts could be next. …

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