Your guide to the 2015 general election

Downing Street cat Larry and police sniffer dog Bailey

Get ready for one of the closest contests in decades.

On Monday David Cameron did what every prime minister has done ahead of calling a general election: go to see the Queen.

After his trip to Buckingham Palace, he returned to Downing Street to formally announce the election, which will take place on 7 May.

From now on, politicians across the UK have got their work cut out.

For nearly six weeks, they'll be knocking on doors, debating with rivals and delivering speech after speech.

Downing Street

Once the campaigning stops, the people in power become powerless and voters decide who they want to run the country.

David Cameron has been prime minister for five years and wants you to give him five more.

Labour leader Ed Miliband hopes his time has come to move into 10 Downing Street.

This election is about much more than Conservatives v Labour though.

The 7 main party leaders

The contest

The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, with an MP elected in each area.

The magic number of MPs needed to win the election is 326 and so far it looks unlikely any party will reach that total this time around.

That means the smaller parties are likely to have a huge say in who governs the UK until 2020.

David Cameron leaves Buckingham Palace
Image caption David Cameron leaves Buckingham Palace after informing the Queen of parliament's dissolution

The Liberal Democrats have seen seen their support collapse over the past five years but hope they can convince past supporters that they deserve another chance based on their record as part of the coalition.

The rising popularity of the Scottish National Party could be one of the stories of the election.

Labour has traditionally been the biggest party in Scotland but that's under threat and could hurt their chances to win power.

UKIP could also have a big say on the outcome of this election.

Their leader, Nigel Farage, is hoping to become an MP and that his party manages to steal votes away from the other main parties.

Newsbeat debates

Newsbeat debates

For the next six weeks Newsbeat will be travelling across the UK to find out what matters where you live and exploring the key issues that could decide this election.

You can also get involved. We're holding three big audience debates live on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and the BBC News Channel throughout April and you can get the chance to challenge the politicians.

We'll be in Leeds on 7 April where the themes is "trust in politics".

Two weeks later we'll be in Birmingham on 21 April to discuss immigration, education and health.

These are some of the issues you said matter most to for this election in Newsbeat's biggest ever survey of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Finally on 28 April we're in Edinburgh talking about the cost of living, jobs and housing.

Your vote

Of course, the only way to guarantee you have your say in this election is to vote.

You have to be over 18 and make sure you're registered. If you're not, you can sign up.

The deadline to register is 20 April.

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