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South Down, Northern Ireland's southeastern corner including Downpatrick, Newcastle and the Mournes, was Northern Ireland's most Nationalist constituency at the last Assembly election (Foyle and West Belfast, normally well ahead on that score, voted in unprecedented numbers for the non-aligned People Before Politics). 62.5% of the vote elected four Nationalist MLAs, two SDLP and two SF. 30.2% 27.4% elected two Unionists, one DUP and one UUP. Alliance got 5.4% and the Greens 2.0%.

2016 result
DUP 5,033 (12.3%, -0.2%) 1 seat
UUP 3,481 (8.5%, -2.1%) 1 seat
TUV 2,718 (6.6%)

Alliance 2,200 (5.4%, +3.3%)
Green 820 (2.0%, -0.7%)
Independent 1,156 (2.8%)

SDLP 12,911 (31.4%, -4.4%) 2 seats
Sinn Féin 12,756 (31.1%, +0.2%) 2 seats
2017 candidates
@Jim Wells (DUP)
@Harold McKee (UUP)
Lyle Rea (TUV)
Gary Hynds (Cons)

Patrick Brown (Alliance)
Hannah George (Green)
Patrick Clarke (Ind)

@Sinead Bradley (SDLP)
@Colin McGrath (SDLP)
Sinead Ennis (SF)
@Chris Hazzard (SF)

Five of the incumbent MLAs are standing again, with one retirement from Sinn Fein. The SDLP and SF are both defending two seats with 1.9 quotas; the DUP and UUP are defending theirs with 0.7 and 0.5 of a quota respectively. In 2016 there were 1.8 1.6 Unionist quotas and 3.8 Nationalist quotas, which on the face of it makes the battle not to come sixth a very close one.

Edited to add: I had missed the crucial fact that the votes cast for independent candidate John McCallister in 2016 (he had been elected as UUP in 2007 and 2011, and was subsequently deputy leader of NI21 until its collapse) largely failed to transfer to anyone, and therefore cannot really be counted as Unionist votes. Taking that into account knocks Unionists down to 1.6 quotas, which significantly changes my analysis. I'm keeping my original text below, but struck through.

Unionists tend to be better at internal transfers, so my hunch would be that the seat lost is a Nationalist one. The SDLP and SF were very close to each other last time; it will very much come down to which of them balances their votes better. SF are starting from behind on two counts - slightly fewer votes in the first place, and a long-standing incumbent retiring. On the other hand, SF have been consistently better at managing their votes, here and elsewhere. It may turn into a nail-biter.

Less so, I think on the Unionist side, provided the vote holds up overall. The TUV have swapped out well-known local figure Henry Reilly for Lyle Rea, who stood and lost in Lagan Valley last time, and the Conservatives are also standing someone, but I expect the vote for the two incumbents to consolidate, and it may prove easier for two Unionist parties to get two people elected on 1.9 quotas than for one Nationalist party to do the same. Still, there are a lot of ifs in that; we may find the second Unionist, the second SDLP and the second SF candidates all very close to each other for the final seat.

As noted above, Unionists combined will struggle to elect a second MLA here, and the UUP start from much the worse position. Transfers from non-aligned parties have tended to favour the SDLP here in the past. So it looks rather likely that the UUP will lose out, though one can't discount the possibility of imbalance between candidates on the Nationalist side making the final counts exciting.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2017 09:24 pm (UTC)
Hi, Unionists were well below 2 quotas. I think you've calculated using the old quota of 14.3% instead of the new 5 seat quota.
This seat should be straight forward 2 each for SDLP and SF.
Feb. 13th, 2017 05:38 am (UTC)
I'm tallying John McCallister's 2.8% as part of the Unionist vote, which takes them up to 1.9 quotas, not much less than either SF or the SDLP. There's also that 7.4% Alliance and Green vote to transfer, which is less likely to help Sinn Féin than the SDLP. It is by no means a slam dunk for four Nationalist seats.
Feb. 13th, 2017 08:42 pm (UTC)
Nick, even with McCallister included, unionists are only on 1.8 quotas. DUP + UUP + TUV + McCallister vote = 12388. Votes with a 5 seat quota = 6846. A unionist seat is gone here.

Contrary to your point about unionists having better internal transfers, less than half of McCallister's vote transferred to other unionists.
There also won't be nationalist transfers being lost, there's only 4 nationalist candidates fighting for 4 seats, compared to 4 unionists fighting for 1/2 seats.

The Alliance transfers also heavily favoured nationalists: 53.5% to the SDLP, 12.5% to Sinn Fein, 20% Non-transferable, while less than 14% went to the UUP.
Feb. 14th, 2017 11:44 am (UTC)
Actually, that's pretty convincing. I had missed that McCallister's vote largely failed to transfer. That does put Unionists combined significantly further from two quotas than Nationalists are from four, and I have changed the piece to reflect this.
Feb. 13th, 2017 09:18 pm (UTC)
Hi, I missed John McCallister's 2.8%!! As mentioned below, most of his votes did fail to transfer to other Unionists though. I'd be very very surprised if there weren't 4 nationalists elected.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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