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Heart of government: Power in the UK

By Matt Barringer, Nick Hunt and Kevin Taverner, CNN International

Editors Note: Use your mouse or touchpad to navigate each panorama.

London, England -- When British voters head for the polling stations May 6 to elect a new parliament of lawmakers, they will be participating in a political system which has evolved over the centuries through conflict and cooperation between monarchs, lawmakers and the general population.

Much of this history, both parliamentary and monarchical, can be found in and around Parliament Square, which lies close to the River Thames in central London.

Panorama 1 is a 360-degree view of Parliament Square itself. Aside from familiar tourist attractions such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, there are also several statues to notable political figures.

Most of the statues depict UK politicians from the 19th and 20th centuries, although U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, are also commemorated.

Statues not shown include Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), who ruled England for most of the decade that it was a republic.

Panorama 2 runs the length of the Houses of Parliament and shows the view from the south bank of the Thames.

The current Palace of Westminster - as it is also known - was built in the 19th century following a devastating fire. The site has been used for royal residences and government since 1016.

How does the UK political system work? And who are the parties taking part in the election?