Is it fair to the British people that the Queen can nullify their votes and call for a new election in light of the hung parliament?

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How queen gets last word on UK election

May 8, 2010 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
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Queen Elizabeth's role in the election?

London, England (CNN) -- After an election that left no party with a clear majority, the final decision over who becomes Britain's next prime minister could lie in the hands of one woman who never votes: The queen.

As a head of state, Queen Elizabeth has numerous traditional roles when it comes to elections and government, yet these are usually no more than ceremonial.

However, as with Thursday's vote that saw the opposition Conservatives secure more seats than Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party but not enough to form a working government, the queen's position becomes more complicated.

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The queen is the embodiment of Britain's constitutional monarchy and everything is done in her name. No laws can be passed nor parliaments opened or dissolved without her approval.

Such strict protocols bind all stages of the process to install a new prime minister -- often with a pomp and grandeur far removed from the boisterous world of British politics.

The 2006 film "The Queen" offered insight into this when Helen Mirren, playing the monarch, invites a nervous and kneeling Tony Blair to become prime minister after his 1997 landslide victory.

In her six decade reign, Queen Elizabeth has dealt with 11 prime ministers, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, who reputedly had a tense relationship with the monarch during the weekly audiences that are also a traditional necessity.

Typically, although it is her role to anoint prime ministers, the queen does not get involved in the political process, remaining above the fray.

After an election, the queen will wait to see if the current prime minister gets a majority or assembles a coalition before inviting them to form a government. Only if they admit defeat and resign can she start to look elsewhere.

As negotiations to form a coalition progress, the queen will be kept informed from a distance, avoiding any direct involvement in the decision.

A high level group including her private secretary and the Cabinet secretary will brief her, but she will not be drawn into controversy.

But, in the unlikely event that no decision can be reached among the parties over who should become prime minister the queen does have powers to intervene.

She can, in theory, call a fresh election or stop a new election being called if she thinks there is another solution.

The queen has faced election hiccups before. The last was in 1974 when after days of party negotiations, she invited Labour to form a minority government. That administration lasted less than a year before Britain was back at the polls.

It usually falls to royal advisers to ensure the rules work and that the queen is kept well away from the political wheeling and dealing.