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UK parliamentary elections 2017

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Deciphering the UK's parliamentary election system

Images of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, appear on the window of a betting shop with a display inviting customers to place bets on tbe result of the general election in London, June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

UK voters head to the polls on Thursday to decide their future government. Thousands of candidates from dozens of parties are contesting a total of 650 seats in parliament. The party with a majority will then go on to form a government. Here's a breakdown of today's vote.

What is a majority?

The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, and each constituency elects an MP.

For a party to get a majority and be able to form a government, it must win at least 326 seats.

The major parties field candidates in a vast majority of these areas, often focussing their resources on marginal or bellweather seats that could go either way.

Who are the main political parties in the UK?

The main two parties in the UK are the Conservative Party on the right and the Labour on the left.

Other parties to hold influence in Parliament include the SNP (Scottish National Party), the Liberal Democrats and the DUP (Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party).

UKIP and the Greens will also stand in most constituencies in the General Election.

What do the polls say now?

The latest general election polls give the Conservatives an 11 to one point lead over the Labour Party.

A new poll from Survation for the Mail on Sunday places the Tories in the lead with 40 per cent, just one point ahead of Labour at 39 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats are trailing behind in the poll with 8 per cent, followed by Ukip at 5 per cent.

What is a hung parliament?

If no political parties are able to win 326 seats, the election results in a hung parliament.

Why was the election called?

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations by seeking a firm majority in parliament.

What are the big issues the parties are fighting over?

The Tory leader says she's the only person who can deliver for Britain and negotiate the right Brexit deal.

Labour has campaigned on a platform of social justice 'for the many not the few', and has warned of "five more years of Tory austerity". Jeremy Corbyn promises to spend more on health and education.

The Lib Dems are focussing on Remain-voting target seats and want more accountability from government on Brexit talks.

What is first past the post voting?

Let's say you have a constituency of 60,000 residents, this is their only opportunity to vote. There's no second round unlike in the French elections.

It's one cross on a ballot paper from a list of candidates and that's it. You go into a polling booth, put a cross next to the candidate you want. If you tick more than one box your paper becomes invalid. At the end of the night, the ballot papers are counted and the person with the most number of votes wins.

What time do the polls open and close?

Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm on Thursday, June 8.