No clear winner in sight in Britain's elections next week

British voters appear to be turning toward minority parties

If the polls are accurate about Britain's election May 7, the nation appears headed for a Parliament in which neither Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party nor opposition leader Ed Miliband's Labor Party will secure enough votes for a majority.

Political leaders will need to form a coalition or a more informal alliance with at least one minority party, enabling them to secure enough seats in Parliament to lead the country, enact laws and pass the budget.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post said Scotland's referendum on independence was nine months ago. The vote took place in September.

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This election is "one of the most curious I've seen for a very long time," said Kate Jenkins, a former British government advisor who was a civil servant for 20 years.

The campaign has focused on the economy, health services, housing and immigration, while foreign affairs has gotten little mention despite the threat of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and a migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

And another friction has reemerged: Scotland versus England.

Just seven months after Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in a referendum on independence, the two regions still look bitterly divided.

"The referendum forced the debate and forced people to take sides," said Simon Hix, professor of European and comparative politics at the London School of Economics.

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, has emerged as a surprise favorite during the campaign. She excelled at the only seven-party TV election debate, coming across as determined, clear, and dynamic, compared with Cameron, Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

A further sign of the country's division came Thursday, when the Scotland edition of Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper — the Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch — endorsed Sturgeon's party and superimposed her face on Princess Leia's body above the headline "Stur Wars." Meanwhile, the England edition endorsed the Conservative Party with a picture of Cameron as a newborn and the headline "It's a Tory!" in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child any day.

Newspaper endorsements, especially the Sun's, have historically acted as a barometer of the public mood, so this endorsement is also a major blow to Miliband and the Labor Party.

The latest polls indicate that the Conservatives have only the slightest edge over Labor and that voters are increasingly turning toward once-marginal parties.

Aside from the SNP, the far-right UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage, is expected to win at least one seat campaigning on an anti-Europe platform, and the Green Party could gain traction in some areas, especially among young voters.

Even U.S. statistician Nate Silver, who successfully predicted the results of the last two presidential elections, hedged his bets when asked to analyze the British elections for the BBC.

"There is still enormous uncertainty about who forms a government after 7 May," he told the broadcaster, and the outcome could be "incredibly messy."

Boyle is a special correspondent.

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