UK election: How a fringe party with few votes became kingmaker

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's early election gamble failed, and her Conservative Party has dropped from 330 to 318 seats in Parliament - eight seats short of what they need for a majority government.

It means the Democratic Unionist Party - a small party in Northern Ireland - is now the kingmaker, with an unexpected chance to have a big say in Britain's divorce from the European Union.

The UK uses the first-past-the-post voting system, where the candidate with the most votes in an electorate wins a seat in Parliament for his or her party. The winning party is the one with the most seats.

In this UK election the Green Party won one electorate in England, so has one seat in Parliament. But across the UK it got 525,371 votes.

The DUP won 10 electorates in Northern Ireland, so has 10 seats in Parliament - but overall it only got 292,316 votes.

This is one of the main reasons why New Zealand moved to the mixed-member proportional (MMP) system in 1993.

Who is the DUP? 

  • DUP are social conservatives who favour Northern Ireland's continued inclusion in the United Kingdom. 
  • DUP has fought to maintain tight restrictions on abortion and opposes gay marriage.
  • DUP want to leave the EU, but they still want a "frictionless border" with the Republic of Ireland.
  • In 2011, they called for a parliamentary debate to consider reinstating the death penalty. 
  • The party has an unclear stance on climate change, and once appointed a climate change denier as Northern Ireland environment minister.

Why are they important?

  • The DUP's support would allow Theresa May's minority government to pass legislation more easily.
  • There's no specific deal yet, but Ms May has said her party "will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular".

What does it mean for the United Kingdom? 

  • A deal between the DUP and Conservatives could risk destabilising the political balance in Northern Ireland. It would increase the influence of pro-British unionists who have struggled for years with nationalists who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.
  • The DUP has called for former Irish nationalist militants to be denied the status of victims and for increased status for former members of the British armed services.

Reuters / Newshub.