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Assembly Election 2011: initial thoughts

Have uploaded my thoughts on the coming Assembly election to my elections site.

East Belfast (2007: DUP 3, UUP 1, Alliance 1, PUP 1): particularly volatile at present, with Alliance having got more than double its 2007 vote in the 2010 Westminster election, and Dawn Purvis, the sole successful PUP candidate last time, having left her party and contesting as an independent. It seems reasonably certain that the DUP will win at least two seats, and the UUP at least one; on their Westminster result, Alliance should comfortably win two as well. But it is not at all clear who will win the sixth seat.

North Belfast (2007: DUP 2, SF 2, SDLP 1, UUP 1): The DUP are within shouting distance of overhauling the UUP and taking all three Unionist seats here; the Nationalist balance of two SF and one SDLP looks stable.

South Belfast (2007: SDLP 2, DUP 1, UUP 1, SF 1, Alliance 1): The 2010 result was very similar to the 2007 result, if one tallies SF votes from the Assembly has having been lent to the SDLP, and therefore no change seems likely here.

West Belfast (2007: SF 5, SDLP 1): Despite the boundary changes, there doesn't seem to have been much of a shift in relative party strengths here - in particular, there is no Unionist quota - so no change seems likely.

East Antrim (2007: DUP 3, UUP 2, Alliance 1): The new boundaries make a real difference here as there is a likely (though not completely certain) Nationalist seat; with the SDLP and SF separated by only 45 votes in the Westminster election, it is very difficult to call which of the two parties is likely to jhave the best shot. The losers, on recent form, will be the UUP unless Alliance are very unlucky or careless. The DUP are running four candidates, which is bold, but one never knows.

North Antrim (2007: DUP 3, SF 1, UUP 1, SDLP 1): The new boundaries make a real difference here as one of the Nationalist seats (the SDLP's, on recent form) is lost to East Antrim. It is difficult to establish which of the Unionist parties is likely to gain as a result. My gut instinct favours the DUP, but Lord Bannside, formerly Ian Paisley, will not be a candidate here for the first time since 1970. Jim Allister got a clear quota for the TUV in 2010, but will he be able to hang onto it? On the other hand, if the UUP votes slips still further, there may be another seat up for grabs.

South Antrim (2007: DUP 2, UUP 1, SF 1, Alliance 1, SDLP 1): The UUP were careless not to win a second seat here in 2007, the last man in being the SDLP's Tommy Burns. Boundary shifts help them this year, and they should have a chance of taking a Nationalist seat, which onrecent form would be the SDLP's.

North Down (2007: DUP 2, UUP 2, Alliance 1, Green 1): This is one of the most volatile constituencies in Northern Ireland; to add to the confusion, the sole Green member elected in 2007 is not standing again, and Alan McFarland, elected in 2007 for the UUP, is standing as an independent. One can be reasonably sure that the DUP will get at least two seats, Alliance and the UUP at least one each, and that neither Nationalist party has much chance, but it's very difficult to call the last two seats.

South Down (2007: SDLP 2, SF 2, DUP 1, UUP 1): The new boundaries put a Unionist seat at risk here, and on recent form that seat is the UUP's rather than the DUP's. The SDLP should be better placed than SF to pick it up. But a lot will depend on balancing of candidates, and if the Unionists are lucky they may keep the status quo.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone (2007: SF 2, DUP 2, SDLP 1, UUP 1): The peculiar circumstances of the 2010 election make it very unreliable as a forecast of this year's result. No change from 2007 seems the most likely, unless SF are able to maintain their squeeze of SDLP support.

Foyle (2007: SDLP 3, SF 2, DUP 1): Veteran campaigner Eamonn McCann hopes to gain a seat here. If he does, it will probably be from the SDLP.

Lagan Valley (2007: DUP 3, UUP 1, SF 1, Alliance 1): The new boundaries remove the Nationalist seat here, unless Alliance are very unlucky. Either way, that means a fifth Unionist seat, which on recent form is more likely to go to the DUP.

East Londonderry (2007: DUP 3, SF 1, UUP 1, SDLP 1)The new boundaries don't give Nationalists an extra seat but do leave half a Nationalist quota floating around, which might help Alliance or might help whichever is perceived as the more moderate Unionist option (or equally might simply not transfer). The third DUP seat is the most vulnerable on the Unionist side.

Mid Ulster (2007: SF 3, DUP 1, SDLP 1, UUP 1): In a good year, the DUP might be able to grab the second Unionist seat from the UUP; otherwise, no change is likely.

Newry and Armagh (2007: SF 3, SDLP 1, UUP 1, DUP 1): No change in the boundaries, and no change seems likely.

Strangford (2007: DUP 4, UUP 1, Alliance 1): On the figures from recent elections, muddied as they are by tactical voting, an SDLP gain from the DUP seems not unlikely given that they missed by only 31 votes last time and are strongly favoured by boundary changes.

West Tyrone (2007: SF 3, DUP 2, Kieran Deeny 1): Kieran Deeny's retirement probably means that the SDLP regain the seat that they should have won in 2007. If the UUP can repeat their 2010 performance they should regain the seat lost to the DUP last time.

Upper Bann (2007: DUP 2, SF 1, UUP 2, SDLP 1): The UUP were very fortunate to win their second seat here in 2007. SF supporters have been trying to persuade me that there is a third Nationalist seat here, but I don't see it; on the other hand, in a good year they should have a chance of gaining from the SDLP. The DUP, who would have a chance at a third seat here in a good year, are running only two candidates. The Alliance candidate is a high profile UUP defector who got the highest vote of any UUP candidate in 2010. With surplus Nationalist and DUP votes sloshing around, it's difficult to call the last seat.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Mar. 28th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
Boundaries
Nicholas do you have a clearer idea of how you think the NI constituency boundaries will be changed in light of the confirmation that the province will have 2 fewer seats after the review?Would welcome your thoughts on how you think the political landscape may shape up
nwhyte
Mar. 29th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Re: Boundaries
We had a long discussion of this on Slugger a couple of weeks ago - see here and here, but ignore the vitriol...
(Anonymous)
Mar. 31st, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
The Alliance are actually standing two in Upper Bann. Which is insane. But I guess Hamilton persuaded the voterless numpties that it was all a personal vote.
nwhyte
Mar. 31st, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Well, it adds extra colour to the contest.
alaninbelfast
Apr. 1st, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
East Belfast
The stickiness of the Alliance vote seems to be the crucial issue. If voters were just punishing Peter Robinson in Westminster, then they might just increase their vote by say 1500 in May and just miss out on a second seat. If they gain 2500 or more, they're a lot more likely to get the second seat.

I'd reckon it's either
Alliance, DUP, DUP, UUP, DUP, Dawn
or
Alliance, DUP, DUP, UUP, Alliance, DUP
depending on the size of the Alliance increase.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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