For the sake of the future, the Assembly needs reform

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You could be forgiven for failing to notice that the Assembly’s  Assembly and Executive Review Committee has been holding a review on   “D’Hondt; Community Designation and Provisions for Opposition” over the past four months. As the committee is  due to report about now we’ve not got long to contain our excitement. The sweeping nature of the inquiry contrasts with its brevity and limited response (according to information on the website) and has been  held I suspect under Westminster pressure.  It therefore  augurs poorly for the chances of reform at least in the short term. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

The political context doesn’t obviously favour reform. The DUP and Sinn Fein have reached their peak. Inside the communal groups they have seen off any serious challenge from the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP under present conditions.  In 2016, a two party coalition facing a fragmented handful of others is perfectly possible. Reform in any guise can only affect their dominance.  It may seem a strange moment to ask the question:  but how can the DUP and Sinn Fein ever terminate their arranged marriage?

The answer lies in considering the wider public interest.  Are the people going to want to be defined as unionist, nationalist and other for ever?  How under present patterns of political behaviour  can we ever change the government?  Granted that power sharing was a huge advance, this government will nevertheless be as difficult to replace as the old single party Unionist rule. That can’t be good for anyone in the medium term. It is not the character of a grown-up democracy, more a stitch-up between elites. All-inclusive government was the founding expedient of the new era from 1998. Now, we need to move on.

I argue that the case for reform which would replace the designations of Unionist, Nationalist and Other with a weighted majority and a negotiated coalition can only grow with time.

A new balance between stability and risk needs to struck without threatening the institutions.

While “unionist “and “nationalist” remain valid empirical classifications, they are increasingly losing favour as the defining characteristics of society.

The logic of negotiating a coalition rather than taking up seats automatically according to D’Hondt would indeed breach the principle of a fully inclusive government of all qualifying parties but a 65% weighted majority would protect the essential cross community principle.

At a stroke the abolition of designations would mean that Executive formation would be subject to genuine bargaining on seats and policy. In the Assembly it would at last give fair weight to the non-aligned Alliance party and minorities and offer a chance of more flexible voting, issue by issue.

The other logic of a negotiated coalition is the ability of parties to opt out of it and become “ parties not in government “ – in other words, an opposition. The fact of opposition creates a natural drive for its members to cooperate if they hope to have influence, arguably more than they have today. This offers a big opportunity as well as imposing an onus on the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and assorted fragments to find a new sense of purpose. Separately or together? The most effective form of opposition would take the form of a shadow opposition grouping that would win the right of reply in the Assembly to a DUP-Sinn Fein government and could eventually present itself as an alternative government around an Alliance party core. That so far is not even a gleam in these parties’ eye so far as I can tell. In the interests of survival do they not need to raise their sights?

An opposition strategy would powerfully concentrate minds in the lesser parties to decide at last what they stand for, including creating a cross community appeal to voters for the very first time across the divide. Without such an appeal we will never break out of the sectarian straitjacket. The big bugbear of course is the almost complete failure to attract a cross community vote to date. It is high time someone tried ; there is some evidence in the polls that  the public would welcome it.  Fragmentation like NI 21 is a dead end which will disappear at the next election .The other alternative of course is  to boost the Alliance party - surely a viable aim after East Belfast 2010?

While these scenarios may seem a pipe dream at present, stranger things have happened – like the formation of an inclusive powering government in the first place. If you can form a power sharing government you can surely discover the appeal of a power sharing opposition if you stop looking over your shoulder.

But this is about more than a strategy for the minor parties.  There is of course a big problem of buy-in.  Why should the DUP and Sinn Fein surrender even a mite of their power?  While each of them has made a success of sharing power between themselves if less so with the others, they still represent opposing default political positions which one day may be put to the test. While public opinion may be softening on the national issue, I still hold to the increasingly unfashionable view that the choice of Union or Unity could still provoke an existential crisis in a generation’s time. At any rate everything should be done to soften the edges of choice in the meantime. That’s another reason voters should be offered real alternatives to the fundamentalist positions of national allegiance.  Under pressure of greater political choice the main parties might also moderate their positions.

So what’s in it for them?  Northern Ireland faces an unpredictable but not necessarily a gloomy future. We have seen Peter Robinson flirting with reform ideas due I assume to demographic pressure.  Sinn Fein are a different proposition but seem less confident than before in the inevitability of a united Ireland. Trends in public opinion and demography are impelling unionists and nationalists gradually to make bigger demarches towards each other.   But increasingly – and this is perhaps the new factor – they need a margin beyond their core in order to secure nirvana.   If politics became more flexible it is not implausible to imagine a future conciliatory leader of a unionist minority persuading enough nationalists that a referendum on Irish unity would be destabilising and unnecessary. Similarly a nationalist majority leader might persuade enough unionists that a united pluralist Ireland was preferable to clinging on to a Union that would be happy to see them leave. A third hypothesis is a cross community Northern Ireland First party holding the balance of power.

There is much more to say about getting politics on the move in the post-Agreement era.  Although the rhetoric has changed a great deal since 1998, little else may happen in the short term. The politics of consolidation may still prevail over the politics of risk. However it’s wrong and actually self deception to dismiss future thinking as fanciful. At least the Assembly is inspecting the auguries under prodding from Westminster. There should be no let-up.  Serious politicians are all too aware than nothing is forever and that stasis threatens their long term positions. If they think in their hearts that the Unity question will fuel them forever it is up to others to prove them wrong.

 

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  • Mick Fealty

    Tour de force Brian…

    I started reading with some trepidation since I think we all, no matter how critical we are of current players, must acknowledge the centrality of politics to the new era of peace… But I do think you hit the nail on the head here:

    Serious politicians are all too aware than nothing is forever and that stasis threatens their long term positions. If they think in their hearts that the Unity question will fuel them forever it is up to others to prove them wrong.

    The unity question will remain important for the foreseeable future… The question is how do you viably pursue that goal in the here and now in such a way that it builds broader confidence in the project.

    I don’t see an alternative to creating such confidence other than committing to building (rather than destroying) Northern Ireland.

    The zero sum mentality of war has a depressing effect on the peace, encouraging people to downplay the agency of local people or the possibility of competing for the other’s voters.

    Nothing stays the same forever. The minor parties will not turn the status quo in the short term, but they should feel obliged to find alternative ways and means for fulfilling their respective agendas and learn how to compete for the future.

  • Morpheus

    Hypothetical questions:

    What happens if we go for this opposition strategy and in the next election the DUP are the biggest party and form a coalition with the UUP? Doesn’t that just create a Unionist government and a return to the old days? The first 2 things that will happen will be that the flag goes back up on Belfast City Hall 24/7/365 and the Parade’s Commission will be scrapped.

    More interestingly, what if SF are the biggest party and go into coalition with the SDLP – how does it sit with Unionists being under the control of a Nationalist government more or less free to do what they choose as The Tories do now, PLUS with Martin McGuinness as First Minister?

    Will all Ministers (Education, Finance, Social Development etc. ) come from the same party with Shadow Ministers in the background somewhere coming from The Opposition?

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @Morpheus,

    Designating an official opposition doesn’t necessarily mean scrapping the system of party designations. It would just mean that there would be nationalist and unionist opposition parties that would get official recognition. Hopefully, any reform would also reform the system of “other” parties by allowing them to decide on a case by case basis which category to be counted in for forming the necessary loaded majority to pass legislation.

    In practice this would probably mean that nationalist and unionist parties would be paired so that the UUP and SDLP would replace the DUP and SF at the same time. Thought needs to go into this as there hasn’t been a similar case of a consociational system in a traditional first-past-the-post English-speaking country. The thing to do would be to appoint a committee of political scientists to look into it and work out a plan. Each of the major parties in the Assembly could each nominate one or two pol scientists for the committee.

  • Brian Walker

    Morpheus

    It would a miracle of conversion of the combined DUP/UU reached 65% majority.

    tmitch57 ( what identity are you hiding behind with that? )., As STV was first introduced in NI in 1972, we are hardly a conventional FPTP area. But there are plenty in UCD/TCD who could facilitate further study. The witnesses to the Assembly committee would also be a good starting point, plus Slugger-friendly Nicholas Whyte.. There a couple of world authorities tires there The Electoral reform society would provide an objective guide.

    There are many more permutations than you suggest However there is no ideal mechanistic approach, It depends on how the parties do at the polls and then how they shakedown after that. And don’t leave out policies

    Mick, I sent you the long version some time ago.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    The thing to do would be to appoint a committee of political scientists to look into it and work out a plan.

    Are you suggesting that the Assembly and Executive Review Committee have not consulted such people?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Great comedy title, “for the sake of the future” as far as I’m concerned the Swiss form of government can go on forever as long as it annoys the chattering classes here.

    Where was this sake of the future when youth unemployment figures skyrocketed?

    Where was this sake of the future when CityWaste was squandering resources and cowboy contractors were robbing the homeless?

    Where was this sake of the future when companies were closing down and scientific research facilities were being cut?

    Where was this sake of the future going to bring attention to the social and economic problems or the community work needed to bring in jobs?

    Global Warming, Resource problems, rising unemployment, Food and Energy Security, Financial meltdown … These are the real problems, the fact that the government doesn’t change to your will every 5-20 years isn’t, that’s the electorate’s choice. That’s the existential crisis, people will still be looking for an Irish safe haven or a British safe haven or a safe haven overseas regardless of who is in power.

    You lot never had it so good, waking up and the only problem you face is the boring politics your generation helped to create, while the children inherit all the costs for paying for that comfort.

    A warning to you lot, changing the game doesn’t change the winners … Every council, European, Westminster election backs up what the Assembly voters want. Politics isn’t going to change the society, Society will change politics and Society doesn’t want to change politics by the look of things.

    Until the media understands why society backs the same politicians, why nations with all their power are put before game theory that is at best a useful strategic tool for a mathematician, unless they can really emphasise with the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, SDLP and Alliance voter, rather than trying to will change by wishful thinking in England, where one party tries to impossibly pursue socialism, and another impossibly pursue conservativism, and another impossibly pursue liberalism, and others impossibly pursue independence and the rest are denied their choices because they don’t have parties that back their ideals, then you will see that “politics of an endgame” is just politics.

    You lot never had it so good, the next generation may see Troubles once again.

  • FuturePhysicist

    A warning to you lot, changing the game doesn’t change the winners … Every council, European, Westminster election backs up what the Assembly voters want. Politics isn’t going to change the society, Society will change politics and Society doesn’t want to change politics by the look of things.

  • ayeYerMa

    FuturePhysicist, this isn’t the first time you’ve came out with this ” Swiss form of government” rubbish. WE DO NOT HAVE A SWISS FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

    In Switzerland they have “direct democracy” and almost all controversial decisions are decided by referendum. The general public can also trigger binding referenda with enough petition signatures. The Swiss all-party coalition would be in an unworkable state of stasis if they only had parliamentary input without endless public referenda.

    One interesting aspect of the Swiss system though is that you also need a majority of cantons to pass any law as well as referendum votes. Might be a better way to get rid of the nonsense sectarian euphemisms of “Unionist” and “Nationalist”.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Swiss form is a nice euphemism for all party power-sharing what can happen when it works, Belgian form is a nice euphemism for a quasi-stable power sharing, ‘Normal’ form is a nice euphemism for everything else from the collapsing Weimar Governments, the Italian and Greek political meltdowns, the Irish Civil War politics, the so called class politics between the middle class Labour Party and the middle upper class Conservatives to the two party carve up in the United States. It often leads to politics where like Lilliput and Blefuscu the only real difference in choice a voter makes is the types of heels they wear.

    As I’ve said before Society changes politics not Vice Versa, if it was vice versa the Ulster Unionist landed gentry would still be in place. No Civil Rights Movement, no Docklands Strikes, no Worker’s Strike,no Troubles,no Peace People, no progress since the Ulster Covenant.

  • DC

    What happens if we go for this opposition strategy and in the next election the DUP are the biggest party and form a coalition with the UUP? Doesn’t that just create a Unionist government and a return to the old days? The first 2 things that will happen will be that the flag goes back up on Belfast City Hall 24/7/365 and the Parade’s Commission will be scrapped.

    The return of gorgeous government – absolutely gorgeous!

    I tend to agree I think unionists would be silly to scrap the assembly system not until society has changed a little, personally i have nothing against majority voting.

    i do think alliance should designate in both camps to make the system redundant or to decrease its value in the eyes of the electorate. What happens when a party declares as both? Probably nothing too fantastic will happen but then that might be the point, time to remove the stabilisers?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Reform doesn’t change the electorate, so that alone won’t change the dominance of the big two. It’s not arranged marriage it’s a marriage of convenience, there’s enough inconveniences to keep it going. That’s the cynical truth.

    Voters have a choice, even a fractured coalition of the willing can consolidate alternative politics, voters could break up the DUP/SF diarchy simply by not voting for either and transferring to the rest, even by picking those within those parties who could be wreckers. Likewise if they didn’t like the 5 in the government. If the voting vectors shift, the government shifts.

    In the Euro elections you effectively have the same story with the constituency barriers removed, the only consistent change from normality is that Alliance Party vote drops and Unionists generally vote for Jim or someone who has Ian in their name. Westminster you get the regional headcounts and the main post-Trimble/Mallon change has been that “Trimble’s Catholics” have been replaced by “Naomi’s Loyalists”.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Actually “Long’s Loyalists” has a better sound to it.

  • Morpheus

    “It would a miracle of conversion of the combined DUP/UUP reached 65% majority.”

    So if there are 108 MLAs to get a 65% majority needs 71 MLAs to sign up for anything to happen. The SDLP and SF add up to 43 nationalist MLAs so if they want anything to pass they need 28 other MLAs to sign up to it. Even if the Alliance signed up en bloc then that’s still requires 20 of the remaining Unionist MLAs. In short, little chance of passing anything that’s not a slam dunk.

    On the other hand if every Unionist MLA plus the Alliance all voted together en bloc for a proposal then they would still need 6 MLAs from either SF or the SDLP. In short, little chance of passing anything that’s not a slam dunk.

    What changes from now exactly? It seems to be a bit like moving the goalposts again.

    Before we fix the system that we have ow how about we fully implement the GFA and get an Equality Commission which does what it says on the tin? I notice they got an very easy ride on Slugger after the report was posted yesterday. I would’ve thought with issues like flags, Irish language, public housing, the controversial handling of the former Girdwood it would’ve been a hot topic of debate today:
    http://www.thedetail.tv/issues/222/caj-report-into-equality-commission/equality-for-whom-how-is-the-equality-commission-delivering

  • jh25769

    I always thought the simplest solution would be a halfway house where the largest Union and Nationalist parties form the government and the rest go into opposition. If they don’t have the numbers either govern as a minority or build a coalition with another.

    Take the current assembly, you’d have the DUP and Sinn Fein in government and the SDLP and UUP and others in opposition. Alliance would have to negotiate as to whether they’re in or out. Then they negotiate ministerial positions etc… Rather than being allocated them.

    Not perfect by any means but you’d have a better opposition, you have consensus building and if people don’t want to be in government, then they don’t have to be.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    jh25769

    Agree 100%.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “However it’s wrong and actually self deception to dismiss future thinking as fanciful.”

    I did that about twenty years ago but many Slugger folks continue to bang their heads against a brick wall; it’s the tug-of-war 1998 constitutional arrangement that has delivered the duo-OFMDFM dictatorship and which fuels attrition issues such as flags. While yous fiddle, the education system burns.

  • jh25769

    I also think the 65% thing is just a recipe for deadlock.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @Brian,

    The user name is an old hotmail address or something. I think I actually stopped by your office when I was last in NI about 12 years ago.

    I’m aware that you’ve had PRSTV since 1973 for Assembly and council elections, but Westminster elections are still FPTP and all voting in the British mainland is FPTP. Together these have created an expectation at least among unionists that a normal democratic system consists of a government party and an opposition party that alternate on a fairly predictable, if inexact, timetable. The experience in the Republic of FF governments being in power for long periods followed by briefer periods of FG-led coalitions may have resulted in a similar expectation among nationalists in the North. But in NI you don’t have a situation like in Italy, in Israel, or in some many PR-list franchise systems where the parties simply play musical chairs and the same parties end up in coalition governments year after year.

    My point regarding NI is that none of the four older European consociational systems that Arend Lijphart based his system on or Bosnia have FPTP systems. So, you are mixing British norms and a deeply-divided society that requires a consociational system.

  • aquifer

    If so-called centre parties were to set out an agreed programme for government (and common criticism of SFDUP) we could all take them more seriously as opposition to SFDUP, but they do not, so we must not.

    Having SFDUP in government long enough to get sick of them, perhaps in the implementation of the real changes of welfare reform and austerity, may be our best chance.

    Reform may have to follow a change in voting patterns.

    Electorates end up fickle.

    In italy they voted for a party set up by a comedian.

    Here we voted for parties set up by a religious zealot and a catholic boys gun club.

    And the opposition cannot get them out? What a laugh.

  • Morpheus

    “If so-called centre parties were to set out an agreed programme for government (and common criticism of SFDUP) we could all take them more seriously as opposition to SFDUP, but they do not, so we must not.”

    Where does the UUP fit into that aquifer. I think their actions in the past few years have taken them quite a bit away from their traditional centre ground. After the notorious, cowardly leaflet drop against the Alliance I would put them right over there with the DUP at the minute.

    But I think you might be on to something – maybe we should allow the DUP/SF to form a Government for 1 more term so we can chuck them all out and get a moderate SDLP/Alliance/NI21 coalition into power. Obviously that depends if that coalition can get their asses in gear and come up with a workable strategy as you quite rightly point out.

  • Barnshee

    “For the sake of the future, the Assembly needs reform”

    There is zero chance of reform- the MLA cabal (with a few exceptions) have an income, support and position they could never aspire to outside politics.

    Put these comforts at risk -unlikely to say the least (mind you an old style !!+ paper with a requirement for 75% pass rate would probably clear out most of them)

  • Gopher

    If there is no threat to a change in government there is absolutely no dynamic to drive policy. A Labour party without Conservatives and vice versa would be ludicrous.

  • PaddyReilly

    Morpheus: What happens if we go for this opposition strategy and in the next election the DUP are the biggest party and form a coalition with the UUP? Doesn’t that just create a Unionist government and a return to the old days?

    There are 108 MLAs, so the number needed to achieve a majority is 50% + 1, which in this case makes 55. At the last election, the DUP gained 38 members and the UUP 16. Presumably they can also rely on the vote of the single TUV MLA: this gives them exactly the right number, which is 55. However, since then, two MLAs, Basil McCrea and John McCallister, have resigned the UUP whip and announced their intentions to form a Centrist party (which allegedly will not have the word Unionist in its title) which approves of the Agreement.

    So, if the Herbs party manage to hang on to their seats, or more effectively Nationalists or Alliance manage to increase their numbers, there will not be a straight Unionist majority in the Assembly ever again and the old days will not come back. The question is then whether we could take a perpetual Alliance dictatorship.

  • PaddyReilly

    Maybe we should allow the DUP/SF to form a Government for 1 more term so we can chuck them all out and get a moderate SDLP/Alliance/NI21 coalition into power.

    With SDLP on 14, Alliance on 8 and NI21 on 2: total 24, you would need the most massive swing in parliamentary history to render that possible. In a room which contains two elephants and three sheep, a coalition to exclude either of the elephants is not going to work

  • Morpheus

    I’m just trying to get into the nitty-grity Paddy because at the minute it all seems very vague. The piece above mentions a 65% weight majority but you are talking 50%+1. Which is it?

    You talk about DUP/UUP/TUV voting together to form exactly 55. What about the PUP? David McClarty? A Unionist majority to pass what they want in your 50%+1 is not difficult.

  • aquifer

    Morpheus

    “Where does the UUP fit into that aquifer.”

    Like yourself I had mentally left the UUP out of the centre.

    Perhaps their ‘intra sectarian outbidding’ and TUV can keep keep the DUP usefully boxed out at the extreme. As the Paisleyite party the DUP are stuck there anyhow. Nesbitt’s gang are beholden to the Orange, so will fail any NI leadership or public order test.

    Enter Judge Naomi Long Dred.

    Bad form for Irish sons to argue with someone who looks like their mum.

    Politically this is wee buns. All Alliance has to do is go down to Dublin and make a fuss about it. The voters they want have all been to the airport and will vote yes why not.

  • News_Meister

    Smoke and mirrors…

    I suspect ‘forwarding planning’ might be the greatest motivator for the recent upsurge within pro-union circles about a “cosy love-in” between DUP/SF… quick, look over there at our Peter!!! Good old distraction politics. Unionism is keenly aware, the predicted shift in demographics means its current upper hand is time-limited and that SF/SDLP will eventually take ownership of the greater negotiating power in any debate about restructuring Stomont… tick, tock!!!

  • PaddyReilly

    What about the PUP?

    They lost their only seat at the last election.

  • Morpheus

    Apologies, I meant UKIP. How do you think David would go on something in the interests of nationalists?
    https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQwO8D0djldwt8vzSMC8pDJYL4mmxPht3ayP6_uif35QDp5qG0iqA

    So 38 DUP, 16 UUP, 1 TUV, David McNarry and David McClarty. That’s 57, 2 above your 50%+1.

    29 SF and 14 SDLP is 43. Even if all the Alliance and NI21 went with them that’s still only 53, 2 below your 50%+1.

    Yes please, gimme some of that.

    I’ll say again, fully implement the GFA and get an Equality Commission which is fit for purpose then give that a go before calling for a new way of doing things.

  • Morpheus

    Gird,word. They are screaming out for social housing – how will that vote go in your 50% plus 1?

  • cynic2

    The fact that the unity question is so predominant is not a given. On both side there is an utter lack of coherent leadership not wrapped in a flag

    They see electoral advantage in being for / against unity so they hold on to to it. They all know that the unity issue is a sham fight. Its decided for a generation. SFs enemy is not the DUP – its the SDLP – and the same for the DUP and UUP.

    Wiser and more competent leaders could break out of this – rather in the way that Adams / McGuinness and Paisley managed the first stage. But so far I see no sign of anyone upcoming with that profile / ability

  • PaddyReilly

    So 38 DUP, 16 UUP,

    No, 16 – 2 which is NI21

  • PaddyReilly

    And – 1 which is UKIP

  • PaddyReilly

    So the Unionist spectrum, as far as I can make out, is as follows:-

    1 TUV
    + 38 DUP = 39
    + 13 UUP = 52
    + 1 UKIP = 53
    + David McClarty Independent = 54

    We then have 2 MLAs for NI21.

    So we have enough to preserve the Union, but not, I hope, to bring back the bad old days. I imagine that the next election will not bring any Unionist gains and may include Unionist losses, so there is no reason to suppose that a Stormont without any special protective legislation would be much different to the present set-up.

  • Morpheus

    For the simple reason that those in NI21 signed up to the manifesto of the UUP and have been selling it for years I have no hesitation including NI21 in your Unionist figures Paddy (until proven otherwise) so that’s 56 – above your 50%+1 so Unionism will find it much, much easier to pass anything when compared to Nationalists even though the population is close on 50-50.

    For SF/SDLP to pass anything they require ALL of the Alliance to back them plus at least 2 from the Unionist list above. Likely on controversial issues like Girdwood or the A5? I think not.

    Our politicians have not been removed from tribal politics for long enough for them to be trusted to make decisions for the good of all the people all of the time. Once they can prove that they can be trusted then we can start the debates about changing the system. Until then we should fully implement the GFA.

  • FuturePhysicist

    With SDLP on 14, Alliance on 8 and NI21 on 2: total 24, you would need the most massive swing in parliamentary history to render that possible. In a room which contains two elephants and three sheep, a coalition to exclude either of the elephants is not going to work

    I think that the rise of Nazism and of Labour during the war years actually exceed this. 24 to 55?

    25 if you count alliance and 26 if McClarty joins NI21 for the next election.

  • FuturePhysicist

    25 if you count Agnew I mean.

  • PaddyReilly

    Unionism will find it much, much easier to pass anything when compared to Nationalists

    Not much different to the present set up then is it? The crucial point is NI21 subscribe to the GFA, so that much at least is guaranteed.

    the population is close on 50-50

    Remains to be shown. More like 51%-49% in favour of the Unionists, last I heard. But there will be an election (Euro) next year so we will find the current position. By my calculations the UUP should take the third seat, but only be the tiniest of margins.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @PR, FP, Morpheus,

    Since unlike Lebanon, NI doesn’t have communally designated seats but merely constituencies that have different mixtures of nationalists, unionists, and “others” how many each group gets hangs largely on turnout. Unionist turnout has been falling steadily since 1998 and nationalist turnout has been rising. What turnout will be for each community in 2016 is anyone’s guess and could hang largely on events that occur between now and then.

  • PaddyReilly

    No. Both Unionist and Nationalist turnouts have been falling since 1998.
    Mid Ulster elections: 1998 turnout 84.4%; 2003 74.9; 2011 65.3%. There seems to be some process whereby one side notices that the other are making a greater effort than usual, and acts accordingly.

  • Morpheus

    “There seems to be some process whereby one side notices that the other are making a greater effort than usual, and acts accordingly”

    All the big parties are guilty of banging the tribal tom-toms when it gets close to election time with the usual “vote for us or else the other side will punish you for if they win”

  • FuturePhysicist

    The bottom line is we need to respect the will of the people, that will wants the DUP and or Sinn Féin at the head of government, our community here want the DUP and or Sinn Féin at the head of government. There has to be “swing voters” from these groups to opposition groups to change things or there has to be more voters going to the polls.

    This is what the majority of the people want, and with due respect to history and democracy here what ALL the people of this region deserve.