Lib Dems 'won't back Tory or Labour minority rule'
Senior Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander has ruled out suggestions his party could support a minority Labour or Tory government after the next election.
The Treasury minister said the Lib Dems would be willing to form a coalition with Labour as much the Conservatives, despite differences over the economy.
But a minority government would "not be in the national interest", he argued.
It could not make tough decisions needed to keep the recovery "on track", Mr Alexander told the BBC.
The last general election in 2010 ended in a hung Parliament, meaning no single party had a majority among MPs. It resulted in the Conservatives and Lib Dems forming a coalition in order to set up a government.
Some Conservatives have said that - in the event of another hung Parliament at next year's election - instead of another coalition, they would prefer to form a minority government.
This is where the largest party is allowed to take power without a majority in the House of Commons, often relying on the backing of - but not a formal coalition with - a smaller party.
Mr Alexander said another hung Parliament was "a likely or probable outcome" and that, despite arguments with Labour over the economy, the Lib Dems would "try to find a way to bridge those differences".
'Strength and stability'
He said a minority government - "an unstable government without its own majority to carry its programme" - would not be in the national interest because it "would not be able to take the difficult decisions that still need to be taken in the next parliament to keep our economy on track".
A minority government, he said, "would not have the strength and stability that we need to ensure that as a country we continue to make the progress economically that we have over the last four years".
"It is not what the Lib Dems want. It is not what we would be arguing for."
Mr Alexander also said: "If there is a balanced Parliament after the next election, I want the Lib Dems to be part of the coalition government. We would seek to work with whichever party, Labour or Conservatives, had the strongest mandate from the electorate.
"Of course there are differences with Labour on the economy and the Conservatives on Europe, but the whole point of negotiating a coalition is to try to find a way to bridge those differences and make sure we can keep the country on the right tracks."
Speaking on a visit to the Channel Tunnel, Mr Alexander did not rule out wanting to be Lib Dem leader.
Asked if he could do the job, he replied: "That is a decision that will be made, I think, in many years. Nick Clegg has said that he wants to carry on his leadership for the whole of the next Parliament.
"I support that very strongly. Nick Clegg and I have been close friends and strong allies since I helped run his leadership campaign. I will cross that bridge if it comes."