The first results are coming in today from the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. The final shape of the Assembly won’t be clear until the later counts tomorrow, but the first preference figures make for some interesting comparisons with the last time out
Assembly election 2003 2007
DUP 177,470 207,721 +30,251
Sinn Fein 162,758 180,573 +17,815
SDLP 117,547 105,064 -12,483
Ulster Unionists 156,931 103,145 -53,786
Alliance 25,372 36,139 +10,767
Greens 2,688 11,985 +9,297
UKUP 4,794 10,552 +5,758
PUP 8,032 3,822 -4,210
The basic trend of recent elections in the North has continued. With the DUP gaining at the expense of the Ulster Unionists, and similar if slightly less marked shift to Sinn Fein from the SDLP.
THe Ulster Unionists’ poor performance have seen them drop behind the SDLP in terms of votes. Indeed, so bad is it, that by my rough reckoning it brings the ‘capital-U’ unionist vote below 50 per cent of the poll, notwithstanding the strong performance of the DUP. By contrast, the overall nationalist vote is up as Sinn Fein’s growth outweighed the SDLP’s decline.
Part of the UUP vote went to the Alliance, which many would regard as a ‘small-U’ unionist party. Indeed, the strong Alliance performance may have a sting in the tail for nationalists, in that along with the DUP and the Conservatives (who performed dismally as ever) they oppose the designation system, under which contentious legislation must have the support of a majority among both unionists and nationalists.
The other centrist party to do well, the Greens, could be the second all-island group in the Assembly if it succeeds in taking a seat in North Down.
The hardline unionist and republican challengers performed, and it at the time of writing it looks like Bob McCartney will lose his seat in North Down. Both communities have arguably voted for tough negotiators and tough negotiations are what will now follow.