NI election results 2022: Counting under way in Stormont Assembly voteon May 6, 2022 at 9:40 am

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The DUP and Sinn Féin are vying for top spot which will decide who nominates the next first minister.

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Votes are being counted following elections to the Stormont Assembly.

The verification of ballots began at 08:00 BST, with the first results not expected until Friday afternoon.

Voters went to the polls on Thursday to elect 90 members of the assembly, with turnout thought to be slightly lower than the 64% who voted in last election in 2017.

Each of the 18 constituencies will elect five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).

Votes are being counted at three centres – Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, Ulster University in Jordanstown and Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt.

Battling it out for top spot

The DUP and Sinn Féin are vying for top spot in this election, which comes with the entitlement to nominate the next first minister.

While the office of the first and deputy first minister is an equal one with joint power, the allocation of the titles is regarded as symbolically important.

Magherafelt count centre

Image source, Reuters

A unionist party has always been the largest in the Assembly, and previously the Stormont Parliament, since the formation of the state in 1921.

The DUP won 28 seats at the last Assembly elections in 2017, just ahead of Sinn Féin which returned 27 MLAs.

Next was the SDLP with 12 seats, the Ulster Unionist Party with 10 seats, Alliance with eight seats, the Green Party with two seats while People Before Profit and the TUV had one MLA each.


Image source, PA Media

This year, the DUP has been regarded as playing it safe, running 30 candidates, while Sinn Fein is running 34.

Meanwhile, the UUP is running 27 candidates, the Alliance Party is running 24, the SDLP is fielding 22, TUV is putting up 19 candidates, the Green Party is running 18 and People Before Profit 12, as is Aontú, while the Workers Party is running six candidates and the PUP three.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Socialist Party are each fielding two candidates while the Northern Ireland Conservatives, Cross Community Labour Alliance (CCLA), Resume NI and Heritage Party are each running one candidate.

There are 24 independent candidates.

Lorry at a port in Northern Ireland

Image source, Getty Images

The result of this election will also have significance for the future of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol is the Brexit deal that prevents a hard Irish border by keeping Northern Ireland inside the European Union’s (EU) single market for goods.

It also creates a new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The assembly members elected today will have to vote on whether to continue with the parts of the protocol which create that internal UK trade border.

That consent vote has to take place before the end of 2024. The vote will be decided by simple majority rather than requiring cross-community consent.

Unionist parties oppose the protocol whereas nationalists and the centrist Alliance see it is an acceptable compromise to mitigate some of the impacts of Brexit.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has cast a long shadow over the election campaign following the resignation of First Minister Paul Givan in February.

Sir Jeffrey Donbaldson and Paul Givan

Image source, PA Media

The move by the DUP was in an effort to force the UK Government to act over the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has indicated that the government will not be introducing legislation relating to the protocol in the Queen’s Speech later this month.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr Lewis stressed the importance of negotiation with the European Union.

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Ulster on Friday, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson said the government was making a mistake by not including legislation relating to the protocol.

“The last conversation I had with government ministers there was an assurance that there would be legislation

“First of all, as I’ve said many times before, I don’t take assurances from this government with too much confidence because they seem to change their minds so frequently.

“I’ll tell you one thing, if there’s no legislation in the Queen’s speech and no plans to deal with the protocol then we’ve made it very clear the assembly can’t function if the poison of the protocol is still there.”

‘More than the protocol’

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that if there is no assembly then there will likely be direct rule from Westminster.

“I have been saying to the DUP for some time that waiting for Boris Johnson to save you is a mistake.

“The reality is, as Sammy was saying there, nobody could accept a different jurisdiction making our laws, but if there is no assembly there will be some form of direct rule.”

Sinn Féin’s John Finucane has said the election was about much more than the protocol.

“I believe the DUP during the campaign outlined a five-point plan as to how they were going to grow our economy, fix our health service and help working families.

“I don’t see how that is possible without an executive – in fact it’s not possible without an executive.

“People are really, really struggling and the number of people is getting bigger and bigger

“Not to have an executive and to certainly deal with it in such a flippant manner and reference a protocol which people here have no say over… I think it’s needlessly and senselessly punishing people who need their political leaders to step up work together.”

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Image source, AFP

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Elections for the assembly use the single transferable vote (STV) system of proportional representation.

Voters list candidates in order of preference and once their top-ranked candidate is elected or eliminated, their vote is allocated to their next-ranked candidate.

This can lead to many stages of counting and can take many hours.

In total 239 candidates stood for election, including a record 87 women.

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