We'll win more seats than Sinn Fein and be biggest unionist party: UUP's Steve Aiken
The Ulster Unionist Party will win more seats than Sinn Fein and be the largest unionist party after Thursday Assembly election, Steve Aiken has said.
The former sub commander surfaced on Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show to make the bold predictions while discussing his party's manifesto.
Mr Aiken said that while no one could predict the outcome to Thursday's snap election, he was confident his party would come out on top.
He said: "Post Friday we hope to be the largest unionist party and we would hope very clearly the SDLP are the largest nationalist party.
"If we have to go into negotiations with Sinn Fein, we will go into negations with Sinn Fein.
Asked if Mike Nesbitt would happily serve as deputy First Minister to Michelle O'Neill, Mr Aiken responded: "How is that going to happen?
"I think Sinn Fein have real problems out there."
"We are going to be the largest unionist party, we are in this election to win. We are going to have more seats than Sinn Fein."
In the previous Assembly the DUP held 38 seats and Sinn Fein 28, the UUP had 16 and SDLP 12.
Thursday's vote is for a reduced 90-seat Assembly to the previous 108. All parties, with the possible exception of Alliance, which held eight, are predicted to lose seats. Most commentators have said it would be a stretch to think the DUP would not come out next week as the biggest party. Indeed some have predicted that while the DUP will lose seats, it will actually increase its overall percentage share of MLAs.
The UUP has 24 candidates on the ballot paper.
Mr Aiken said he was "not in the game" of predicting how many seats his party would win.
"We are in this election to win. We are going to have more seats than Sinn Fein but we will be the largest unionist party," he added.
Asked what way people should vote, given his party leader has vowed to give his second preference to the SDLP, Mr Aiken said: "Vote for what's best for Northern Ireland.
"Unionism is not some abstract principle. People should vote for what's best for Northern Ireland."
Discussing his colleague Jim Rodgers' fears that Ulster Unionist voters are abandoning the party over concerns Sinn Fein could emerge the biggest party, Mr Aiken said that was not how he saw it after canvassing 6,000 homes and talking to 10,000 people.
Belfast Telegraph Digital