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DUP and Sinn Fein have both been given a mandate to lead us all but the big question is, are they up to doing the job?

Whatever the final tally of seats in the Assembly election it is clear that Sinn Fein will be the happiest party today after seeing a resurgence in its support taking them neck and neck with the DUP.

Arlene Foster can be relieved that given the backdrop to the poll, particularly the RHI debacle, the DUP vote held up remarkably well.

But the final result will be a far cry from the resounding victory scored just 10 months ago. Her belligerent anti-Sinn Fein campaign served mainly to boost the republican party, although she can claim validly that it also got most of her unionist vote out.

Psychologically the positions going into the post-election negotiations have been reversed which makes a quick resolution of the stand-off between the parties all the more unlikely. Sinn Fein will feel confident that it can press its claims on issues like an Irish language act and whether Mrs Foster should play a leading role in the talks. It was an election which it was said no-one wanted and certainly the SDLP and UUP would love to wind back the clock. Their hopes that the centre ground could become more relevant went up in smoke and led to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt falling on his sword as his party failed to reach anywhere near his predicted performance.

Alliance meanwhile had its best results for many years and now could be seen as either a potential partner in government or a more credible opposition party.

Mrs Foster said after the election that she wants to mend relationships soured by the election, but given the entrenched positions adopted by both the DUP and Sinn Fein during the campaign it will take almighty about-turns by both to see a new Executive established.

Yet ultimately that is the mandate given to the parties. They have an overwhelming vote to form a new devolved government. Their role is not to score political points but to tackle the day-to-day issues that affect everyone. The question now is - are they up to the job?

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