Friday, March 09, 2007

Northern Ireland elections

Northern Ireland went to the polls yesterday to elect a new Northern Ireland Assembly. The election was conducted under STV, with 6 members elected from each of 18 districts. The parties seem to have a good grasp on the system, with tactical nominations based on the expected level of support rather than the FPP scattergun "contest every seat" strategy. Despite Northern Ireland's long history of violence, the elections have been trouble free, and in a promising sign the non-sectarian Alliance Party has increased its seats (it has also seen the election of Northern Ireland's first ethnic minority representative - Anna Lo in South Belfast). On the negative side, not only has Ian Paisley (a rampantly homophobic lunatic protestant bigot) been re-elected - he has been joined by his son, who seems to be cut from the same cloth. Marvellous.

So far the count is 75% complete (results here) - but it is already clear that no party will gain a majority, and that there will need to be some power-sharing arrangements in order to form a government. Hopefully the parties will be able to rise to the occasion, rather than squabbling as they've done in the past.


Fascinating - STV in action! I've always thought STV could be a good option for New Zealand.

Posted by Lewis Holden : 3/09/2007 04:44:00 PM

Afaik, the Alliance party is infact a free-market, liberal party... essentially the Northern Island equivelent of ACT.

Posted by peteremcc : 3/09/2007 11:09:00 PM

peteremcc - I don't think that's true. The Alliance are economically centrist, as can be seen by their alliance with the British Liberal Democrats and policy statements from their website like "Alliance favours a mixed economy, in which a primacy of market solutions is balanced by a government and public concern for social justice".

But in Northern Irish politics sectarian issues trump everything else, so they're mostly significant for being "Northern Ireland's cross-community party", which was their election slogan I gather, rather than a slogan about tax cuts or shrinking the government that you'd expect from a party equivalent to ACT. As such I expect their members' opinions on economic issues traverse the whole spectrum, settling on centrism as a compromise.

- Ranald

Posted by Anonymous : 3/10/2007 01:38:00 AM

The NI electorate would be much better off if they had a choice of parties based on political outlook, rather than community identity.

The trouble is that it's fairly likely that the DUP will refuse to back a power-sharing government and direct rule will continue.

If the UK & Irish governments really want to have a power sharing government in NI, then the only guarantee would be to require that MPs participate in that government in order to be allowed to take their seats. Which would force the DUP to either join in or go home.

Posted by Rich : 3/10/2007 02:11:00 PM