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 …Upper Bann
May 2016: Quota: 6527
DUP: (2 seats) 14188
Sinn Féin (2 seats) 11373
UUP (1 seat) 9884
Others: SDLP 4335, Alliance 1424, TUV 1177, UKIP 1072, PUP 704, CISTA 672, Green 495, Labour 250, Tory 79, Independent 33.
DUP: Carla Lockhart, Jonny Buckley.
Lockhart outgoing. Sydney Anderson stands down.
Sinn Féin: John O’Dowd, Nuala Toman.
O’Dowd is outgoing. Toman replaces Cat Seeley.
UUP: Jo Anne Dobson, Doug Beattie.
SDLP: Dolores Kelly.
Lost her seat to Sinn Féin last year.
Alliance: Tara Doyle.
Sadly we dont have Harry Hamilton, the Freddie Mercury impersonator this time.
TUV: Roy Ferguson.
Stood last year.
Green: Simon Lee.
Stood last year.
Workers Party: Colin Craig
Tory: Ian Nickels
Stood last year.
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 48,000 votes and a quota of 8000
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) 8000, DUP look safe for two seats but they will need and get TUV transfers.
I dont think that UUP can turn 10,000 votes into two quotas.
A Declaration of Interest. This is my constituency and I will be voting.
For a few years now, Sinn Féin have been playing fast and loose. In 2011 they told voters that Dolores Kelly (SDLP) was “safe” and they should vote SF to get three nationalist seats. On other doorsteps, they told voters that Dolores was “toast”. Likewise they built up Cat Seeley in 2015 Westminster election. She could win apparently. As it turned out she finished third (behind DUP and UUP) with less than 30% of the vote.
Seeley was elected to the Assembly easily in 2016. She had almost 1,000 more first preferences than John O’Dowd who almost lost his seat.
Well that wont happen in 2017. After years of building a profile in Upper Bann, Cat Seeley has decided that she wants to be a teacher and is replaced by Nuala Toman, a Sinn Féin staffer.
The Alliance and Green candidates, resident in East and South Belfast respectively are just going thru the motions.
The likely outcome is three unionist seats (two DUP and one UUP) and two nationalist seats.
Can SF turn less than 12,000 votes into two seats?
Can SDLP turn around 5,000 votes into one seat?
Well, my own observations is that nationalist voters think that they want two parties rather than one. Some people seem to feel a little guilty that they did not vote for Dolores. If everyone …homeless, abused, disabled, poor, Catholic, Protestant, migrant, helped by Dolores and her staff had actually voted for her last year….she would still be a MLA. It is that simple. Happy to say that a few people have volunteered the information that they are voting for her this time.
Whether it is enough is a different question.
Especially as there is a downside….there is no SDLP office in the constituency and maybe, just maybe the local Party has been wrong-footed by a snap election.
So Thursday morning at 7am my wife and I will exercise our traditional right to be the first votes for Dolores cast in Upper Bann.
DUP 2, Sinn Féin 1, UUP 1, SDLP 1.