LONDON, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Elections for the first ever British metro mayors, along with those for local governments, took place across the country Thursday and their results will be seen as a litmus test for general elections.
Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party has to defend more than 1,100 seats and the rival Labor Party almost 1,540 seats. However, the spotlight will be shed on UK Independence Party (UKIP).
The UKIP has vowed to bring the country out of the European Union (EU), but that aspiration has been questioned by many political commentators, as Britain has voted last June to leave the EU.
Although the UKIP does not have any representatives in the House of Commons, 146 of its members were defending seats in the council elections.
Many of the elections Thursday will decide the councilors to serve on county councils which mostly serve towns and rural areas.
In Scotland, residents will vote for the councilors that rule the two big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in Wales the elections included capital city Cardiff.
Altogether, almost 5,000 council seats will be contested in 88 councils in England, Scotland and Wales.
METRO MAYORS COMPETITION
In addition, voters in a number of Britain's major city regions will choose their first ever metro mayors in the biggest shake-up in local governance for a generation.
Powerful metro mayors will be elected in Birmingham, Britain's biggest conurbation outside of London, as well as Manchester and Liverpool.
Other metro mayors will be elected in Tees Valley, the West of England, Cambridge and Peterborough.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne promoted the idea of city region mayors to drive forward his strategy of a northern powerhouse and a midland engine, so as to enable the major provinces to better compete with London and the surrounding southeastern region of England.
New mayors have been given devolved powers to oversee various functions in their own sub-regions. They will be mainly responsible for the economic development and strategic planning, but some will have extra powers over transport and housing.
TEST FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS
As local elections took place, broadcasters in Britain have suspended their coverage of the campaigns for the general election until after 10:00 pm local time (2200GMT), when the voting stations across Britain are closed.
In many areas, the counting of votes will take place later Thursday night, but many councils will start counting their ballots on Friday.
The results will give an indication of how the political parties have performed in the local elections, analysts said.
Political party managers will scrutinize the results for clues as to what may follow June 8, when a snap general election will determine the make-up of the House of Commons.