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UK election: Who are DUP and why have they become key to forming government?

Theresa May has sought support from Northern Ireland-based DUP — the fifth-largest party with 10 seats — in order to bring the Conservative Party back to power.

world Updated: Jun 10, 2017 15:40 IST
Kartikeya Ramanathan
DUP leader Arlene Foster in East Belfast during the counting of votes.
DUP leader Arlene Foster in East Belfast during the counting of votes.(AP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s gamble of holding polls to consolidate her position has backfired, with the Conservative Party losing seats and voters delivering a hung Parliament. However, May has sought support from the DUP — the fifth-largest party with 10 seats — in order to bring the Conservative Party back to power.

When the results were being announced, DUP’s strong showing resulted in Google announcing that it was the most searched political party in the UK.

So who exactly are the DUP?

The Democratic Unionist Party is the largest party in Northern Ireland. They are unionist, which means they are pro-United Kingdom. The party has referred to itself as “right-wing for being strong on the Constitution” and “left on social policy”. However, it has controversial views on many topics, including climate change, which may prove to be a stumbling block for any alliance with the Tories.

For one, DUP is strongly against gay marriage — Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where same-sex marriage is not allowed. The party earned widespread condemnation after its leaders referred to gay and transgender people as “disgusting” and an “abomination”.

The DUP is also against “hard Brexit” so that Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland — which is still part of the European Union — is not affected.

“What we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union, and that’s what the national vote was about – therefore we need to get on with that,” Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

The DUP will also have problems with the Tories on a number of other issues. For example, the party once appointed a climate change denier as the Northern Ireland environment minister and has a number of creationists — those who believe the universe and all organisms were formed by divine creation — as senior leaders.