Here is the final part of Faha’s analysis for this weeks election
Nationalist Constituencies- The Seats in Contention
This review covers the 4 nationalist seats where there is a possibility that the incumbent could lose the election. I will discuss them in the order of likelihood that there could be a change.
Fermanagh South Tyrone
This seat could be lost by SF for several reasons. The most obvious is the unionist electoral pact with the UUP candidate Tom Elliot the only unionist candidate. If you look at the combined nationalist vote in the 2014 council elections it was 23083 (52.75%). The combined unionist vote was 20206 (46.2%). These totals reflect the vote in the DEA’s. However, the figures would not have been the same if a Westminster election had been held the same day. There is a small section of the Killyman ward that is in the new Armagh-Banbridge –Craigavon council which is entirely unionist and there are 400 unionist votes there. There is also a small section of the Dungannon DEA that is in the Mid Ulster Westminster constituency which is almost entirely nationalist and there are 400 nationalist votes there. So the actual vote within the Fermanagh South Tyrone Westminster boundaries would have been 22700 for nationalist parties and 20600 for unionist parties. Another major factor is that EU nationals are not eligible to vote in Westminster elections. There are over 3000 EU nationals who were on the district council electoral register but not on the Westminster electoral register. While it is unknown how many of those voted in 2014 it is likely if those voters were excluded for a Westminster election the total nationalist vote would have been less than 22000. This indicates that SF will lose this seat unless there is a large increase in nationalist turnout. The 2014 vote indicates that there is barely a 1000 nationalist plurality over the total unionist vote for a Westminster election. SF faces an uphill battle to retain this seat. The SDLP vote would have to collapse to 1000 from 3574 in 2010 and the Green Party would need to attract very few nationalist voters. Furthermore the 3500 voters who voted for dissident and independent republicans in 2014 would all have to turn out and vote for SF. The nationalist turnout was only 53% in 2014 while the unionist was 63%. Despite the fact that there are over 46,000 Catholics of voting age and only 31700 Protestants of voting age the UUP could win due to these factors. This would be a major upset victory for the UUP and if the Westminster election had been held the same day as the council elections in 2014 with the 2015 candidates the UUP would have won. This analysis is heavily based on the 2014 council election turnout. If SF increases the nationalist turnout by only 3% they would receive an additional 1300 votes which would be enough to win the election. Nationalist voters are also aware that Michelle Gildernew won by only 4 votes in 2010 and this is likely to increase nationalist turnout. Tom Elliot is also a more polarizing candidate than Rodney Connor and that could increase nationalist turnout also.
The SDLP would have lost this seat to the DUP if the election had been held the same day as the 2014 council elections. The DUP vote was 800 more than the SDLP vote and the SDLP vote was even less than the Alliance vote. The poor SDLP vote was due to low nationalist voter turnout in the Botanic and Lisnasharragh DEA’s. The nationalist voter turnout was actually higher than the unionist turnout in the Balmoral and Castlereagh South DEA’s. The fate of Alasdair McDonnell will be determined by nationalist turnout. One factor in his favour is that there may be tactical voting for the SDLP from Alliance voters. The Alliance Party is certainly upset that the DUP and UUP have ganged up on Naomi Long in East Belfast and some Alliance voters may be angry enough about the DUP-UUP electoral pact to vote SDLP to prevent Jonathan Bell from winning here.
This could be a closer than usual election between the SDLP and SF. In the 2014 council elections the SF vote exceeded the SDLP vote by 600, the first election in which this has occurred. Mark Durkan should still win the election for several reasons. He has the advantage on incumbency and constituency work. There is a large vote for independent nationalists in Foyle and transfer patterns in the past indicate that more of this vote goes to the SDLP and SF. There is a large amount of tactical voting for the SDLP in Westminster elections. In previous elections approximately 20% of Alliance and unionist voters vote for the SDLP. Mark Durkan should win this election though it could be with a reduced majority.
Newry and Armagh
This constituency is interesting for several reasons, including the unexpected unionist electoral pact and the SDLP choosing a high profile candidate in Justin McNulty. It is not clear why the UUP and DUP decided on a pact here. The total unionist vote is less than 34%. Not all DUP voters will turn out to vote for the UUP and with an increasing nationalist electorate due to demographic changes the total unionist vote could be 32% or less. Even if the nationalist vote was evenly divided the UUP would not win. There has been a decline of 3000 votes each for the SDLP and SF since the 2005 Westminster election. Nationalist turnout is likely to be higher in this election. The Northern Ireland NHS review by Dr. Liam Donaldson has recommended reducing the number of acute care hospitals from 10 to only 4. Daisy Hill Hospital in one that could be downsized or closed so there is likely to be an increased turnout to save the hospital. This could be a close election but the SDLP would need some tactical unionist votes to win and it is unclear if those votes exist to any extent.