DUP take seat off SDLP without byelection

There’s a bizarre argument raging in Ballymena since the DUP took a seat off the SDLP simply by submitting its papers when the minority nationalist party refused to do so, arguing that it should have been given the option to co-opt its own nominee.

  • Gum

    This is really the way to remain a player in politics! Are the SDLP just giving up outside Foyle?

  • The Braid ward in Ballymena is made up of 80% unionist 20% nationalist. The Dup is the majority party. What the Dup have done is copperfasten its majority at nationalisms expense – says a lot for equality but little for inclusive politics. I don’t know William Wilkinson but in accepting this nomination he will, knowingly or otherwise, wear the mantle of shame during his term of office.

  • Sounds like there’s an issue with the electoral system. While I don’t think the DUP have acted overly nobly, they followed the rules according to the system that is used.

    Ideally only those who voted for the councillor who is no longer in office should be allowed to vote in the by-election, but that’s hardly practical.

    The question is should parties be automatically entitled to co-opt someone (thus entshrining the party system in local government politics) and if so what happens to indpendents? Should the whole council be re-elected everytime someone leaves?

  • CQ

    Ideally only those who voted for the councillor who is no longer in office should be allowed to vote in the by-election, but that’s hardly practical.

    This is possible if the ballot papers are retained. You simple redistribute the votes of the retiring candidate. This is what is done in some countries where STV is used in order to avoid by-elections (although I think that there are normally restrictions so that there has to be an unelected member of the same party available to receive transfers)

  • Keith M

    My understanding (please forgive me if I’m wrong) is that unlike in this country by-elelections are commonplace in councils in Northern Ireland. Here we tend to go down the co-option route with the party who has lost a councillor being allowed to nominate a replacement.

    “Ideally only those who voted for the councillor who is no longer in office should be allowed to vote in the by-election, but that’s hardly practical.” Ideally to who exactly? Councillors are supposed to represent ALL their constituents, therefore it should be all or none who are involved in the by-election. Personally I think in multi-seat constituencies there is a case for not backfilling any vacancies, especially at council level.

  • Keith – the problem is you end up with situations like this, if you have all parties fighting a by-election, where the largest party gets even more of an advantage than a full election would permit, gaining a disporportionate number of seats on council.

    In some circumstances (like this one I believe) the only nationalist or the only unionist representation could be lost despite there being a sizeable minority of people who vote that way.

    I like CQ’s idea about retaining ballots though, if that would be practical.

  • Daugavas

    Co-option has increasingly become the preferred option in the past 15 years in local councils prior to that by-elections were the norm. Co-option seems to me to go against the whole purpose of STV ie voting for individuals rather than parties. It is really no more democratic as often you have a party sycophant appointed without even consulting the voters which seems to me to be the anithesis of democracy.

    All electoral systems have their flaws and by-elections are THE major flaw in STV.

    The best solution would be to allow each candidate at election time to specify a replacement who would replace them but only in the event of death. This would be fair both to parties and independent candidates and would also be democratic as at least the replacement candidate could claim a democratic mandate. If candidates failed to specify a “deputy” as it were then a by-election would be held.

  • Christopher Stalford

    A bit less hypocrisy from the North Antrim SDLP contingent would be a good start – they were more than happy to let a by-election be forced in Moyle, when big Gardiner Kane stepped down – bcause Ballycastle has a nationalist majority, but when the boot’s on the other foot they run bleeting to the press – what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  • I’m not surprised at that either CS. It seems parties here, rather than having any principles, will only follow whatever course of action suits them best at any given time.

  • Visioneer

    Because this was a contest over one seat in a Council Ward with a Unionist majority the SDLP would have wasted money on fighting an election as the DUP would have won it with a large majority.

    No other party wanted to contest it because of the financial reason as it would have been a waste of money.

    And because the Council is DUP/Unionist controled you wouldn’t have expected them to allow co-option. A Nationalist controlled Council would have done the same.

    The SDLP would have won this seat previously on transfers and have got the seat because of there being so many, say 5 or 6. (Don’t know the exact number in the Ward)

  • Gonzo

    Christopher

    The DUP certainly didn’t need the seat, as it already had 14 of the 24 seats on the council.

    So there must have been another reason to act so contemptibly dishonorably.

    My guess is that it was to give Mr Wilkinson – a failed DUP candidate from the last election – a platform to promote FAIR and the Love Ulster campaign, once he has finished dancing on the deceased SDLP councillor’s grave.

    I found it more surprising that Mervyn Storey, someone who I have a lot of time for, defending Mr Wilkinson’s move, given Mr Storey’s own views on Love Ulster.

    Also, Mr Gardiner stepped down from Ballymoney council in disgrace, following an assault on a council worker. That is the reason the DUP didn’t “run bleeting (sic) to the press” at the time – they wanted Mr Gardiner and his associated difficulty to go away quietly.

    Yes, the SDLP took advantage and I’m not defending them (the “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” argument is blatant whataboutery to try to deflect attention from the real issue), but it was in a completely different situation and is certainly easier to justify.

    IIRC, the move also made a difference in that it meant the DUP had no overall control of Ballymoney council any longer, unlike Ballymena, where it would have retained control whether it took the deceased councillor’s seat or not. If I’m correct, that’s smart politics on the SDLP’s part in Ballymoney, but what real gain did the DUP make in Ballymena? None.

    So not only does Mr Wilkinson have NO electoral mandate, but his term in office will have a cloud permanently hanging over it.

  • The issue is not that parties will do what they can to win as many seats as they can. That is their job. We need the rules established properly for these circumstances BEFORE the initial election is held.

  • Comrade Stalin

    bertie, this is the case in the assembly where the parties can nominate a person who will take over the seat if the elected representative steps down. I believe John Hume used this provision when he stepped down a few years ago.

    I have to concur with Gonzo’s assessment. I also remember the DUP/UUP bleating when the Alliance Party forced a by-election in Ards quite a few years ago now. At the moment though, I’m more concerned about implications this has for the DUP’s apparent links with Love Ulster and the UDA.

  • “IIRC, the move also made a difference in that it meant the DUP had no overall control of Ballymoney council any longer, unlike Ballymena, where it would have retained control whether it took the deceased councillor’s seat or not. If I’m correct, that’s smart politics on the SDLP’s part in Ballymoney, but what real gain did the DUP make in Ballymena? None. “

    So Gonzo, it’s worse because it doesn’t make a difference to the overall council makeup, whereas it was OK for the SDLP to use the situation to dramatically alter the power structure there? I’d be inclined to believe the reverse to be honest.

  • Comrade

    I have to admit that I know next to nothing about the circumstances and history of this. However surely if the rules and procedures are properly established before hand the blrating from whatever soutce becomes irrelevant.

  • sorry

    that’s bleating and source

  • Glen Taisie

    Gardiner Kane DUP resigned from Moyle Council,when his seat came up for co-option nominations wewre forwarded from the UUP,the DUP and an Independant Nationalist. The Moyle SDLP group did not nominate any candidate and wewre prepared to support a co-option. As the council could not find any agreemnet a bye -election was called which was won by the SDLP.

    If there is a moral high ground the SDLP can claim it on both occassions.

  • Daugavas

    As a point of info, Ballycastle is part of MOYLE council, not Ballymoney so the Gonzo is wrong to say that the by-election made a difference to the balance of power as it simply increased the Nationalist majority.