Assembly Election 2017: North Belfast

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 …North Belfast
May 2016: Quota: 5225
DUP (3 seats) 12785
Sinn Féin (2 seats) 9704
SDLP (1 seat) 3866
Others: Alliance 2569, UUP 1972, PBP 1286, PUP 1238, Green 796, UKIP 751, TUV 644, WP 476, Labour 127, NI First 32, Independent (Hughes) 243, Independent (Burns) 87.

2017 Candidates:
DUP: Paula Bradley, William Humphrey, Nelson McCausland.
All outgoing.
Sinn Féin: Gerry Kelly, Caral Ní Chuilín.
Both outgoing.
SDLP: Nichola Mallon.
Alliance: Nuala McAllister.
Stood last time.
UUP: Robert Foster.
People Before Profit: Fiona Ferguson.
Stood last time.
PUP: Julie-Anne Corr Johnston..
Green: Malachai O’Hara
Stood last time.
Workers Party: Gemma Weir.
Stood last time.
Independent: Adam Millar.

Likely Turnout.
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 37,500 votes and a quota of 6,250

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) 6,250, DUP wont be confident defending three seats. Nor will Sinn Féin feel confident defending two seats. Nor for that matter will SDLP confident defending their one seat.
All have to increase their first preference totals.
While RHI etc might hit DUP, they will be comforted by UKIP and TUV not standing. UUP vote will suffer as unionists circle the wagons. PUP have a high profile candidate and a softer image.
At best I only see 14,000 votes for DUP and that is only two quotas.
Nichola Mallon is likely to poll better than last time. She has had a good year and has freshened up the SDLP image in North Belfast. Thru Cllr Paul McCusker, she can reach places where Alban Magennis could not have reached. She also has the endorsement of Raymond McCord, a unionist and father of a loyalist murder victim.
Nichola will certainly widen the gap with Alliance.
I expect Alliance to fall back from 2016.
Likewise fellow non-leftist Green Party will lose out.
I am not so sure about People Before Profit and Workers Party. They can do socialist purity but does BREXIT count against them?
Either way, I see SDLP gaining from a cluster of eliminations.

Sinn Féin….well this whole “we are not corrupt, we are just incompetent” spiel might work. If they can persuade their core vote that this time ” we will stand up to DUP” then they have to say that they have been a DUP poodle for several years.
It is “dog whistle” stuff. But if they cant break 10,500 first preferences, then they will struggle.
So I cant see more than one full quota.
So I would call four seats as it as DUP 2, SF 1 and SDLP 1.

The fifth seat.
Well on the basis that in 2016, unionists (DUP, UUP, PUP, UKIP, TUV) outvoted nationalists (SF, SDLP) by 48% to 37%….thats a headline figure.
Drilling down Alliance is avowedly neutral but their voters might lean nationalist.
Likewise Workers Party and People Before Profit spoof about their constitutional neutrality.
And the Green Party spoofs about everything.

So that gap is actually tighter than it looks. In calling the fifth seat, there is a possibility that it could go to SF.
Both DUP and SF are toxic to a lot of people.
Fifth seat….DUP.

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3 Responses to Assembly Election 2017: North Belfast

  1. Vince says:

    Thanks again Fitz, really interesting angle. My bet is 2 DUP and 1 each for SF, SDLP and Alliance. I think the 2 strongest candidates by some margin are Nichola Mallon (outstanding) and Gerry Kelly in that order. Just don’t see DUP vote share going anywhere other than down and the transfer rate to them from other Unionists will take a slight hit – they won’t have enough for 3 seats. Nichola Mallon will increase her vote share – as with Patsy McGlone, if not elected I am going to give up on this place. Alliance have been making big efforts over the past 2-3 yrs in NB and I think they will also get a boost (bounce from not being in government – though they would love to be – and having N Long rather than D Ford as leader). The size of the UUP vote and destination of his transfers once eliminated will be crucial to the Alliance hopes.

    • Its certainly possible.
      But I think McAllister did well last year because SDLP were suffeing because Alban stayed a few years too long. For the last year, Nichola has had a chance to put her own stamp on SDLP?

      • Vince says:

        No question. Alliance will not be gaining at the expense of Nichola. She is an amazing young woman. I have seen her working at close quarters – caring and committed to making the lives of those in need better, courageous and principled. I have been saying on this blog for a while that she should be the Deputy Leader of the SDLP. She would make an outstanding Health Minister or Minister for Communities.
        Where Alliance will pick up is from moderate unionists and transfers from Green, PBP, perhaps also from Nichola once she is elected.

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