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Northern Ireland elections results

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 3rd, 2017 at 06:40:50 PM EST

[Updated with all counts completed]

Party: % Share of vote : Change since 2016: -> Seats
Sinn Fein 28% (+4% since May) -> 27
Democratic Unionist Party 28% (-1%) -> 28
Ulster Unionist Part 13% (0%) -> 10
Social Democrat and Labour Party 12% (0%) -> 12
Alliance 9% (+2%) -> 8
Smaller parties and Independents 10% (-6%) -> 5
Counting in the Northern Ireland elections has just been completed with all 90 seats filled. Turnout is up 10% from 55 to 65% compared to the last elections in May 2016. Early elections were called when Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive as a result of the "Cash for Ash" scandal and deteriorating relationships with the DUP, the major Unionist party.

The other major issue is Brexit where the DUP campaigned for Brexit and the other major parties campaigned against with the result that Northern Ireland, as a whole, voted against Brexit in the referendum last June. The implications of Brexit for the N. Ireland economy and the border with the Republic were hotly debated throughout the campaign.

The election is taking place using a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in 18 constituencies which have been reduced from 6 seats each to 5 as part of a cost saving "reform" reducing the Assembly from 108 seats to 90. In theory this should marginally favour the larger parties as the quota required for election becomes higher as a % of the total vote, the smaller the number of seats in a constituency.

The first count has been completed in each constituency (consisting of each voters first preference vote for a candidate). This reveals the overall % of the vote each party's candidates have attained which should be broadly reflected in the number of seats won by each party, although final totals will be influenced by lower preference votes and how "transfer friendly" a particular party is. The first preference vote broken down by party is as follows:

Sinn Fein 28% (+4% since May)
Democratic Unionist Party 28% (-1%)
Ulster Unionist Part 13% (0%)
Social Democrat and Labour Party 12% (0%)
Alliance 9% (+2%)
Smaller parties and Independents 10% (-6%)

The general conclusion has to be that voter engagement has increased significantly perhaps because the main issue was a "bread and butter" government incompetence and corruption scandal rather than a purely tribalistic headcount. The DUP, and their Leader, Arlene Foster have been damaged by her involvement in the affair.  Sinn Fein has gained 4% and fewer than 1,200 first preference votes now separate the DUP and Sinn Fein which means Sinn Fein is within touching distance of becoming the largest party.

The non sectarian Alliance party has also done well and the main losers are a plethora of independents and smaller parties including the Traditional Unionist Voice, Green, and People before Profit parties.

The other main conclusion is that anti-Brexit parties have done relatively well and their large majority in the Assembly will heap pressure on the British Government to take Northern Ireland concerns into account.

Political speculation is that Sinn Fein are unlikely to re-enter the Executive while Arlene Foster remains the DUP leader with the result that the devolved administration may collapse and result in the instigation of direct rule from Westminster. This is one headache Theresa May does not need during the Brexit negotiations and the risk to the Peace Process posed by Brexit will now loom larger in the negotiations.

I read somewhere that turnout has been particularly high in Catholic areas. I'm thinking that Sinn Fein may just get their nose ahead. What's the rule if the two leading parties have an equal number of seats?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Mar 3rd, 2017 at 09:56:16 PM EST
Latest indications are that the DUP and Sinn Fein may both end up on 28 seats - in which case the DUP will retain the right to nominate the First Minister on the basis of having received c. 1,200 more first preference votes.  However the First and Second Ministers have co-equal powers, so the difference is merely symbolic.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2017 at 11:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the interesting things coming out of the later counts is the number of lower preference votes transferring between the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP - i.e. across the sectarian divide - in preference to transferring to remaining Sinn Fein or the DUP candidates on the same side of the sectarian divide.

This is partly because Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Unionist Party, recommended that they do so. He has now resigned because of the disappointing results overall for the Ulster Unionists. Arlene Foster, Leader of the DUP is also likely to come under pressure to resign if the DUP end up with only 28 seats.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2017 at 11:53:35 PM EST
by generic on Sat Mar 4th, 2017 at 05:24:51 PM EST
I prefer Wankerland myself....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 4th, 2017 at 11:03:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern Ireland: A remarkable election in some respects but gridlock remains
Outcome confirms institutions and political culture continue to be mired by sectarian headcount politics:

The question remains exactly the same. Status quo ante restored: will Arlene Foster resign or step aside as First Minister pending the inquiry into the extraordinary fiasco of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme? Will no-one pay a political price for a scandal that would have cooked the goose of a responsible minister in any "normal" parliament? Except here, it would seem most unfairly, the leader of a political party uninvolved in the management of the RHI, the Ulster Unionist Party's Mike Nesbitt, who has fallen on his sword after his party lost six seats by preaching moderation.

The North's election has resolved nothing except to expose once again the reality that its institutions and its political culture remain mired in and gridlocked by sectarian headcount politics. It's not just that voters continue loyally, depressingly, to support the most tribal parties, and in increasing numbers, but that the dynamics within communities are such as to inhibit even any real internal accountability. Unionism and its voters, driven by the imperative of at all costs defeating Sinn Fein, can clearly not even put its own house in order.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 6th, 2017 at 11:31:21 PM EST

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