WITH all 108 Members of the Legislate Assembly (MLAs) elected by late Saturday afternoon (May 7, 2016) negotiations are underway to form Northern Ireland’s new government.
And, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have emerged with the strongest hand with 38 MLAs making them the largest party in the Assembly.
It means that party leader, Arlene Foster, will be First Minister and the party will take three ministerial portfolios, with finance probably being their first choice.
Sinn Féin has lost one seat, but this will not affect Martin McGuinness’s claim as Deputy First Minister. They may have 28 seats, but they’ll closely examine future tactics after seeing their first preference vote share drop by 2.9%.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) gained 16 seats and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 12 seats, meaning both are faced with a dilemma.
Under the mandatory coalition system they would each be able to take a ministerial seat, but they are considering forming an official opposition for the first time in NI’s Parliament Buildings.
Taking such a stance would see them, potentially, more of a voice than if they were bit players in government.
While the Alliance Party will almost certainly take up the post of Justice Minister there also emerged in this election a growing number of smaller parties.
The People Before Profit Alliance, the Greens (who saw two candidates each elected) with Jim Allister (TUV) and Clare Sugden (Independent) form a considerable rump, should they chose to align in key votes with the UUP and SDLP.
Combined, this could be an opposition grouping that would be a thorn in the side of a DUP, Sinn Féin and Alliance Party Executive.