Today, Thursday, the U.K. heads to the polls, with the Conservative Party facing what could be a historic defeat against the center-left Labour Party, as suggested by recent polls.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak surprised both politicians and the public six weeks ago by announcing an early election. Many had expected the vote to take place later, allowing time for the effects of declining inflation and potential interest rate cuts to reach voters.

Various smaller parties, such as the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Democratic Unionist Party, and Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, are also competing for seats in the 650-member House of Commons. Voting will occur across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

In the U.K.’s political system, increasing a party’s share of the popular vote does not always equate to winning more parliamentary seats. However, it is anticipated that either the Conservatives or Labour, led by Keir Starmer, will emerge as the ruling party, either through a majority or coalition.

Traditionally, the leader of the party with the most seats in the Commons becomes prime minister. Polls over the past two years have consistently indicated a strong lead for Labour. However, to secure even a slim majority, Labour would need an unprecedented gain of nearly 13% in the national vote, a larger swing than Tony Blair’s victory over John Major in 1997.

A significant poll by YouGov this week confirmed Labour’s lead, but experts and the Labour Party warn that no outcome is certain, with over 100 seats too close to call. These include those held by prominent Conservatives like Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt and Sunak himself.

This election is the first since 2019, when Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won its largest majority since 1987 on a promise to complete Brexit. Johnson’s tenure was marred by scandals, including the “Partygate” affair, leading to his resignation in July 2022. Liz Truss succeeded him but resigned after just 44 days due to the mini-budget crisis, which unsettled financial markets.

Sunak, formerly a finance minister, has since led a relatively stable political period but faced challenges with a severe cost of living crisis and sluggish economic growth. The legacy of 14 years of Conservative rule, beginning with David Cameron’s coalition government in 2010, has been a key campaign theme.

Sunak and Starmer have been campaigning on critical issues like housing, the National Health Service, and defense. In a June debate, Sunak claimed that Labour’s policies would result in a £2,000 ($2,553.73) tax increase for every working family, a figure Starmer dismissed as fabricated, stating Labour’s tax increases would target specific groups.

Voting will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, with exit polls released shortly after. Ballot counting will occur overnight, with results expected on Friday morning.