Following the decision to field a Pan-Unionist/ Conservative candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone, the electoral math in the constituency has altered considerably. In the event of the SDLPs candidate deciding to remain in the contest, then Michelle Gildernew would be facing a mammoth challenge to retain the seat.
As of the 2005 Westminster election, Sinn Feins Michelle Gildernew held 72% of the combined nationalist vote- some 18,638 votes compared to the SDLP candidates 7,230 votes. In that election the combined nationalist vote exceeded that of the combined unionist vote by some 2,933 votes.On those figures, Gildernew would need to increase her share of the combined nationalist vote to some 89%, ensuring that more than 4,200 of those SDLP voters (or 60% of them) transfer their vote to Gildernew this time around. To put this in context, when Sinn Fein romped home with five of the six MLAs in West Belfast in 2007, it did so having taken 85% of the combined nationalist vote. Gildernew will need to match and exceed that figure if she is to retain the seat for nationalism.
In short, she needs to ensure nine in every ten nationalists vote for Sinn Fein (up from seven in ten in the constituency in 2005.)
Certainly not impossible, and if republicans could choose one constituency in which they would have a four week period to deliver this message, then it would be Fermanagh South Tyrone. But were they to pull it off, it would be a fairly unprecedented achievement.