PETER ROBINSON was the most high-profile casualty as the UK elections ended in a nightmare stalemate.
Northern Ireland's most senior politician lost his seat in the House of Commons -- a fallout from the affair scandal involving his wife Iris and her teenage lover.
The defeat ends a 31-year career as a member of parliament for the DUP leader and casts a shadow over his political future as First Minister of the North's devolved government.
Robinson saw a 6,000 majority in the 2005 parliamentary election turned into a 1,500 majority for Naomi Long of the Alliance Party.
His seat in the Northern Ireland assembly allows him to continue as first minister there but today's result threatens his authority.
Speaking after his defeat Mr Robinson said he had told those around him ahead of the election he would "prefer not to stand" after the problems he had suffered in his private life but had been persuaded to run again.
"You should always be careful what you wish for in politics," he said. Mrs Long, the flame-haired fencer who had just vanquished a seemingly unbeatable opponent, said: "It feels great."
Mr Robinson is still expected to lead the DUP in negotiations to broker a deal with either Conservative leader David Cameron or Prime Minister Gordon Brown during efforts to form a government because of the hung parliament.
Overall, with 49 of the 650 UK seats left to report, the Conservatives have 286, Labour 237, while the Liberal Democrats have 51.
While the Tories will be largest party, they won't have enough seats to form a government on their own. Mr Brown was today plotting to save his premiership. He was set to open coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats, who have performed worse than expected in the election but still could hold the balance of power.
Mr Brown will argue he has the first right to try to form a government if there is no clear winner -- even if Labour has fewer MPs than the Tories.
He will also claim that, at a time of economic uncertainty, it is more important to have a majority government than a minority administration.
Mr Brown is aware that the Lib Dems will be looking at the Conservatives as well as Labour.
LibDem leader Nick Clegg, whose party failed to capitalise on a surge in opinion poll ratings through the month-long campaign, said today: "We simply haven't achieved what we had hoped."
But the party's MPs and peers will hold a private meeting tomorrow as part of the process which would allow Mr Clegg to enter into a coalition with either Gordon Brown or David Cameron. Other parties could come into play -- including the Scottish Nationalists SNP and Welsh party Plaid Cymru.
SNP leader Alex Salmond said he wants to make Westminster "dance to a Scottish jig" -- and to win deals for Scotland. Plaid Cymru could also make demands in return for supporting a goverment.
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