Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Election dogfight at risk of alienating us

Vote early and often is a catchphrase long associated with elections in Northern Ireland, the place where even the dead have been known to vote. The above may raise a laugh during a stand-up routine, but vote stealing or electoral fraud is both illegal and a very serious matter
Vote early and often is a catchphrase long associated with elections in Northern Ireland, the place where even the dead have been known to vote. The above may raise a laugh during a stand-up routine, but vote stealing or electoral fraud is both illegal and a very serious matter

Editor's Viewpoint

Vote early and often is a catchphrase long associated with elections in Northern Ireland, the place where even the dead have been known to vote. The above may raise a laugh during a stand-up routine, but vote stealing or electoral fraud is both illegal and a very serious matter.

Election & Brexit briefing Newsletter

The Belfast Telegraph's General Election 2019 briefing, plus Brexit news, opinions and analysis.

The PSNI and election officials have issued a warning after a Facebook post alleging electoral malpractice was under way through the illegal use of proxy and postal votes.

Posts also suggested that some people had voted several times at the last general election when Sinn Fein narrowly beat the SDLP to the Foyle seat.

There is no doubt that every party in Northern Ireland this time around will seek to maximise their vote in the December 12 General Election, which is both a gauge of public opinion on Brexit as well as the usual orange and green political dogfight.

However, given the toxicity of local politics since the fall of devolution nearly three years ago, there is an added edge to exchanges in the opening days of the campaign.

Pacts or local agreements have dominated the initial debate. The SDLP is standing aside for the first time ever in North Belfast to increase the chances of Sinn Fein beating DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds; and Sinn Fein is standing aside in South Belfast to boost the SDLP candidate's chances of defeating sitting DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly.

The UUP vowed to fight all 18 seats but quickly resiled in North Belfast and in return the DUP is standing aside in Fermanagh/South Tyrone where Ulster Unionists will field candidate Tom Elliott.

It is understandable unionists feel strongest when they speak with one voice, particularly at a time when they perceive a long-term threat to the Union, but there are UUP and DUP members who will never be reconciled to a single party.

So it is with the SDLP and Sinn Fein - their Belfast agreement will count for nothing in the dogfight in Foyle.

In a province where politics are dominated by the DUP and Sinn Fein, pacts do little to encourage middle ground voters to turn out.

Allegations of electoral fraud add to the disillusionment.

They simply feed into the democratic deficit and tell voters their wishes don't count when parties see an advantage in ignoring them. Voters are entitled to have the widest possible choice when it comes to an election and not to be told they should take sides in a two-cornered dogfight.

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