The key difference between Assembly 2016 and Assembly 2017 is that only five MLAs will be elected from each constituncy. For at least eighteen MLAs and their staff, this election has come four years too early.
The percentage of votes required to get elected…the quota…will be higher but I am not thinking in terms of percentages. Rather I am thinking in terms of votes cast in May last year and the number of votes likely to be cast this year.
Too often …analysts with some justification …focus on the statistics of elections. Arguably this one is different. There might actually be Politics involved.
So ….North Down
May 2016: Quota: 4605
DUP (3 seats) 13446
Alliance (1 seat) 5400
UUP (1 seat) 4987
Green (1seat) 4109
Others: UKIP 681, Tory 672, TUV 610, SDLP 425, Sinn Féin 307, Labour 177,
Independent (Brian Wilson)1415.
DUP: Alex Easton, Gordon Dunne
Both outgoing. Third outgoing DUP MLA Peter Weir has been moved to Strangford.
UUP: Alan Chambers, William Cudworth.
Chambers is outgoing.
Alliance: Stephen Farry
Outgoing. Two candidates last time.
Green: Steven Agnew.
SDLP: Caoimhe McNeill.
Sinn Féin: Kieran Maxwell..
Tory: Frank Shivers.
Independent: Chris Carter, Gavan Reynolds, Melanie Kennedy,
There are three scenarios.
People will be so disgusted at Stormont itself, that they just dont come out.
They are so disgusted at DUP-Sinn Féin, they will turn out.
DUP and Sinn Féin will play the bogey man card and people do turn out.
My gut feeling is that this election is a little like the 1998 Referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. Unlikely people will vote.
I am guessing at 36,000 valid votes and a quota of around 6,000.
Question 1….will DUP vote go up or down? Well, they have already written off the third seat. North Down is an enigma. A reputation for liberalism, maverick candidates in leafy middle class areas but DUP clean up in the working class areas. I suspect they will slip to around 13,000 votes (even with the benefit of TUV and UKIP not standing this time), enough to bring their two candidates home.
Alliance will be helped by Brian Wilson (ex- Alliance, ex-Green) not standing. So Stephen Farry will improve from to around 6,000, on or near the quota.
Green….probably the same situation where Wilson votes come home to Agnew. But Agnew not likely to reach the quota until the left-leaning votes of SDLP and Sinn Féin become available.
The SDLP candidate Caoimhe McNeill is from my neck of the woods and prominent in student politics.
As usual in North Down, there is a cluster of Independents, the only one of whom I have heard is Chris Carter. No doubt all of the Independents have a story.
Alan Chambers will probably be elected on transfers from his running mate and the Independents.
It looks easy to call.
DUP 2. Alliance 1. UUP 1. Green 1.