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 …South Belfast
May 2016: Quota: 5247
DUP (2 seats) 8081
SDLP (1 seat) 7361
Alliance (1 seat) 6061
Sinn Féin (1 seat) 5027
Green (1 seat) 3521
Others: UUP 2466, Some Kinda Labour 871, UKIP 794, TUV 495, Independent (Ruth Patterson) 475, PUP 430, Ind Unionist 351, Some Other Kinda Labour 246, Workers Party 241, Green 796, UKIP 751, TUV 644, WP 476, Tory 161.
DUP: Emma Little Pengelly, Christopher Stalford.
SDLP: Claire Hanna, Naomh Gallagher.
Claire is outgoing.
Alliance: Paula Bradshaw, Emmet McDonough-Brown.
Bradshaw is outgoing.
Sinn Féin: Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
Green Party: Clare Bailey.
UUP: Michael Henderson.
People Before Profit: Páidrigín Mervyn
Some Kinda Labour: Sean Burns.
Stood in 2016
Workers Party: Lily Kerr.
Stood in 2016
TUV: John Hiddleston.
Stood in 2016
Tory: George Jabbour.
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 most 39,000 votes and a quota of 6,500
My presumption in all these profiles has been that the turn-out will be higher than last year. I might be totally wrong. With a quota of (say) 6,500, it looks difficult for the Greens to defend their seat and difficult for DUP to defend the second seat.
I can see the Greens increasing their first preference vote but RHI and BREXIT means that DUP will drop votes.
SDLP looks certain to increase their first preference total. Claire Hanna has been a very effective MLA and SDLP has been the leading pro-Europe party. On the downside, I dont think it is a balanced ticket. SDLP is a broad church…and the selection of Naomh Gallagher, one for the future, suggests a changing of the guard and those described as “progressives” are now firmly in charge.
Even with a plethora of minor leftist candidates, SDLP will get around 8,500 first preferences and Claire will take most of them.
Alliance will advance slightly. Incumbency will help Bradshaw and her previous incarnation as UUP-Tory means she will get most of the transfers from UUP.
To some extent Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is tainted by coalition with DUP and as Minister of Finance. He will run with the fox and hunt with the hounds and it should be enough to convince the core.
Clare Bailey has extended the traditional Green agenda beyond tree hugging and knitting vegetarian muesli to advocate Abortion rights. It finds an audience in South Belfast. Again, Incumbency helps.
So….SDLP 1. DUP 1. Alliance 1. Sinn Féin 1…..and Green 1.