In Depth

UK election 2015: what the rest of the world is saying

A 'weird' electoral system, a 'barmy' prime minister and a party that sounds like an 'awful pudding'

If Brits are baffled about what lies ahead after today's election, onlookers around the world are even more so. The electoral system has been described as "weird", while others think the country is "irrelevant" no matter who takes charge.

"Great Britain is having a confusing parliamentary election," says PJ O'Rourke at the Daily Beast. With Brits left disappointed by the broken promises of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, attention has turned to the "other" parties.

"There's the Marine Le Pen-aping United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP); the Britain-hating Scottish National Party (SNP); the leafy, nutty, fruity Greens; various scruffs and flakes in Ulster and something Welsh called Plaid Cymru, which I think was the name of an awful pudding I was once served in Cardiff," he says.

The only prediction O'Rourke is willing to make is that on 8 May parliamentary politicians will be "quoting the immortal American campaign strategist Dick Tuck: 'The people have spoken, the bastards.'"

Others commentators are left confounded by Britain's 'first past the post' system, through which marginal seats seem to be the answer to everything.

"Face it, my beloved Britons: you've got a weird electoral system," says Pablo Guimón, London correspondent for El País. "You might think it's normal that the Greens could get 10 per cent of the vote and just one seat, while the SNP might end up with 4 per cent and 50 seats. But it's not. Even if it does stop Ukip."

But Swedish journalist Emanuel Sidea thinks that ultimately the rest of Europe "doesn't really care" about the outcome of the election, as the UK "stopped being relevant some time ago".

Writing in The Independent, he accuses Brits of always trying to get a "better hand, every time and everywhere", an attitude that manifests itself in the UK's relationship with the EU.

Sergei Utkin, an analyst working on Russian relations with EU countries, suggests that a Ukip/Tory win might be viewed positively by Moscow if it leads to a rethink on the EU.

"Britain leaving the EU would make both Britain and the EU much weaker, which those in the Russian leadership feel would be good for Russia," he tells The Guardian.

Meanwhile, China's state-owned Global Times frames the election as a "drastic" choice between a "changeable, unpredictable devil it knows or the as-of-yet morally righteous but untested devil it doesn't".

It describes David Cameron as a "persona non grata" who has "barmy notions" such as welcoming foreign investment but rejecting foreign students, while it thinks Labour leader Ed Miliband might try to target China in an attempt to make up for Tony Blair's "dismal human rights track record".

Writing in the New Zimbabwe, Ian Scoones fears for African aid if UK voters veer right. "As a small set of islands and a dwindling economic and political power, elections in the UK should not really matter for the rest of the world," he says. "But bizarrely, they do; and perhaps especially this one." 

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