British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will seek an early general election on June 8, a surprise move that appeared aimed to strengthen her position as the country prepares to leave the European Union.
In an unscheduled announcement, May said on April 18 that Britain needs certainty and stability in the wake of last year's Brexit referendum vote.
Britain's largest opposition party, the Labour Party, welcomed the prime minister’s plan, meaning her motion to hold a general election on June 8 is likely to achieve its required two-thirds majority in a vote on April 19.
The next general election was to have been held in 2020.
Explaining her decision, May said Britain needs a general election, adding that she had come to this conclusion "reluctantly" after having previously said there would not be a snap vote.
The prime minister triggered a two-year countdown to Britain's exit from the EU last month, and talks to settle the terms of its departure and agree on a new relationship are expected to start in the coming weeks.
May accused political parties of "game-playing," saying this threatens the country’s “ability to make a success of Brexit."
She said Labour threatened to vote against a final Brexit deal with the EU, the Liberal Democrats warned they wanted to "grind the business of government to a standstill", and the Scottish National Party (SNP) said it would vote against legislation formally repealing Britain's EU membership.
Observers say May is hoping that the early election will increase the number of lawmakers from her Conservatiove party in parliament, making it easier for her to ignore opposition calls for a softer exit from the EU and counter hard-line Conservatives who reject any compromise in the negotiations with Brussels.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said his Labour Party wanted the snap election, calling it a chance to get “a government that will put the interests of the majority first."
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose SNP has called for a second independence referendum after voters there rejected a split from the UK in 2014, said early elections will help determine the future direction of Scotland.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and the BBC