British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party looks set to continue in power after it defied expectations and won the 323 seats needed to command a parliamentary majority.
The results confirmed a shock exit poll projection published by British broadcasters late on Thursday night that put the party way ahead of the opposition Labour Party with 316 seats. Updated projections put the Conservatives on 329, an absolute majority.
The poll also predicted Labour winning 239 seats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning 58 and the Liberal Democrats winning 10. Labour's tally was further revised down to 233 as the vote counts came in.
The party's leader, Ed Miliband, is expected to resign his position, sources within the party told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
Nick Clegg, who was deputy prime minister under the outgoing coalition government, announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats after his party's "catastrophic" defeat.
Clegg called the loss of more than 40 of the party's seats "the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats" since it was founded.
Speaking after successfully defending his seat in Witney, Cameron said his Conservative party's policies in the last government had been vindicated by the result.
"This has been a very strong night for the Conservative Party," the prime minister said.
"Some people say there's only one opinion poll that counts and that's the one on election day, and I don't think that's ever been truer than tonight," he added, referring to polls published before election day that had put his party neck and neck with Labour.
A party needs 326 seats to achieve a majority in parliament, but this number is slightly lower in practice, as the Sinn Fein MPs in Northern Ireland do not take up their seats.
RELATED: A night of political drama in Glasgow
Miliband, speaking after he retained his Doncaster North seat, said he was "disappointed" in the result.
"It's clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party. We haven't made the gains we wanted in England and Wales, and in Scotland we've seen a surge of nationalism," he said, apologising to Labour members who had lost their seats to the SNP in Scotland.
"I am deeply sorry for what has happened."
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from Westminster palace in London, said the scale at which the opinion polls had failed to predict the result had been unprecedented.
"What's turning out to be the result of this is an extremely divided election, and a potentially very disunited kingdom," he said.
|The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates victory after the party made an unprecedented clean sweep of seats in Scotland [AP]
In Scotland, the nationalist SNP has taken a near clean sweep of seats in the region, picking up 56 of 59 seats.
The gains came at the expense of the Labour and the Liberal Democrats, which were reduced to just one seat each in the region.
Labour lost 40 seats in Scotland and saw its regional head, Jim Murphy, and shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander lose their seats.
Danny Alexander, a Liberal Democrat minister under the last government, also lost in his own constituency.
The SNP went into the elections with just six seats from 2010.
The party's leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who was not standing herself celebrated the result, after initially urging caution over the exit poll projection.
"Thanks so much to everyone who voted SNP today. Whatever the results, I'm very proud of our campaign," she said in a post on Twitter.
RELATED: Factoring in social media for UK election victory
A number of prominent MPs, including current ministers and senior leaders from across the political spectrum, have lost their seats.
The Liberal Democrats bore the brunt of the losses, their 59 seats reduced to about a dozen. The party's former leader, Charles Kennedy, lost his seat to the SNP, and ministers Vince Cable and Simon Hughes also lost in their constituencies.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell told Al Jazeera the party would have to "start from the bottom up".
George Galloway, a former Labour MP and leader of the Respect party, lost to Labour's Naz Shah in Bradford West, a seat he was widely expected to retain.
The Conservative Employment Minister Esther McVey lost her seat in Wirral West to Labour.
Labour's shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, was also defeated by Conservative candidate Andrea Jenkyns.
In Wales, the nationalist Plaid Cymru held its three seats, and in England the right-wing UK Independence Party is expected to pick up only one seat, despite gaining around 12 percent of the votes cast. Party leader Nigel Farage failed in his attempt to take the Thanet South seat from the Conservatives.
The Green Party's Caroline Lucas is expected to hold its only seat.
|Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat to his Conservative rival [Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera