Lib Dem leader favourite for British PM: online poll

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg came top in an online poll of who should be Britain's next prime minister Thursday, as voters cast their real ballots across the country.

Clegg, whose party surged in opinion polls during the campaign after his powerful performances in TV debates, came top with 42 percent in the poll hosted by social networking site Facebook.

Conservative leader David Cameron scored 31 percent while Prime Minister Gordon Brown came bottom on 27 percent in the poll of people's favoured candidate for prime minister, in which over 560,000 had voted by early afternoon.

"The general election campaign has seen a massive rise in the number of people engaged in the democratic process," said Richard Allan, Facebook's director of public policy for Europe.

"Whatever the outcome of the election, the level of engagement we have witnessed both on Facebook and beyond is hugely positive for the health of our democracy," he added.

The Lib Dem leader - whose party has traditionally been the also-ran third force in British politics - triggered what the press dubbed "Cleggmania" after his appearance in the first of three live TV debates last month.

After that fans regularly mobbed him at appearances around the country during the campaign ahead of Thursday's legislative elections, in which he could emerge as kingmaker between Brown's Labour and Cameron's Conservatives.

Several eve-of-election polls showed the Tories had a clear lead over Labour, which has been in power for 13 years, and the Lib Dems.

But they suggested that under Britain's first-past-the-post system, Cameron's party would fall short of an overall majority in the House of Commons, resulting in a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.

The Facebook prime ministerial poll can be seen - and voted on - at: http://www.facebook.com/democracyuk?v=app_60082431253.

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