Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland election - if second poll called who would be winners and losers?

As the prospect of a second Assembly election edges closer, we take a look at who could be the winners and losers in another poll

By Jonny Bell

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said it will be unlikely the current political talks will resolve the differences between Sinn Fein and his party within the three-week deadline.

Talks are continuing throughout the week and Secretary of State James Brokenhire has cancelled plans for a US visit to help concentrate minds.

The parties have until March 27 to hammer out a deal. Should no First Ministers be put forward on that date at the Assembly sitting, it is up to Mr Brokenshire to then call an election.

He could, however, bring emergency legislation to Westminster to restore direct rule. Or, as has been mooted, stall on calling an election. In the law Mr Brokenshire must call an election within a "reasonable amount of time" giving the secretary of state some wriggle room should additional time be required for talks.

Speaking to Good Morning Ulster on Monday, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it would be "very difficult" for the talks to be concluded within that time frame.

It comes as last week the BBC reported polling stations were being booked in anticipation of another poll.

A UK government source, speaking to this newspaper, also dismissed suggestions of a potential June 8 date for another snap poll.

The earliest date for an election - should one be called - after the March 27 Assembly sitting could be Thursday May 4, should the timetable follow as it did in January after the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

But should the parties again go to the ballot box, who would be the possible winners and the losers?

We asked polling company supremo Bill White. His LucidTalk company had a fantastic election, predicting the final result to within 1%.

Mr White said another second election would likely be good for the middle ground and be to the detriment of the unionist parties.

He said: "There is bound to be a reaction among unionist votes. The UUP in particular would be vulnerable to losing more seats so you couldn't rule out the possibility of pacts to ensure transfers.

"In hindsight a five-seat constituency poll was always going to benefit Sinn Fein. We estimated they had a ceiling of 28 seats and they almost maxed out on that. Whereas for the DUP their floor was 28 seats and they hit that with a bump.

"As there are only two main nationalist/republican parties it is not such a confusing ballot paper for their voters compared to the amount of unionist parties their voters face.

"Alliance was the bigger winner in the election and could grow again in a second poll with the chance of getting as many as an extra two seats.

"So the dangers of another poll are all on the unionist side, but of course it all depends on the campaign and 'events dear boy, events'."

<< How the March Assembly election unfolded >>

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