The announcement marked a U-turn for May, who had repeatedly said she would not seek an early vote.
It is the latest twist a turbulent year in British politics, which was plunged into turmoil when the country unexpectedly voted to leave the European Union last year. The hotly contested “Brexit” referendum ended with the resignation of then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
May’s Conservative Party holds a slim majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons and May is banking on gaining a greater share of the seats to make Brexit a smoother transition for her government. Her plan comes as the main opposition Labour Party faces record lows in approval ratings.
But her decision also opens the door to more uncertainty in the region, as it now puts Europe’s three most powerful nations — Britain, Germany and France — into full-throttle election mode.
This will be the backdrop upon which Brexit talks begin, as the clock on the two-year deadline for negotiations began ticking on March 29, when May officially filed divorce papers to Brussels.
Clear way for May
In her comments Tuesday, May argued that a general election would end the attempts of opposition parties and members of the House of Lords to thwart her Brexit plans.
“If we do not hold a general election now, their political game playing will continue,” she told reporters at Downing Street.
“We need a general election and we need one now.”
May needs two-thirds of parliament to agree to the early polls, and MPs will vote on whether to grant May’s wish after deliberations on Wednesday.
But opposition parties have said they will not block the move and have already begun soliciting support from the public, kicking of a swift seven weeks of campaigning.
If approved by parliament, the election will be Britain’s third general election in seven years, and it comes less than a year after the referendum that decided the UK would withdraw from the EU.
May’s call comes despite a law passed in 2011 under Cameron’s coalition government aimed at keeping elections five years apart to prevent precisely this kind of uncertainty.