Turnout holds up in local elections

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Voting has closed in local elections in the Six Counties after a quiet campaign which was overshadowed by non-local issues, mainly the crisis over Brexit, the political stalemate, and recent rioting in Derry.

The North’s 1.3m eligible voters enjoyed mild weather for polling, and the overall turnout is expected to reach over 50%, slightly down on the last two elections. It would be a smaller drop than had been feared for an election which is being held in isolation this time out.

A financial scandal over the spending of social funds failed to energise politicians or voters in Belfast, which saw turnout figures in the east and south of the city not reach 40% by 9pm. However, reports also suggested a slightly higher turnout in rural areas, as well as in west and north Belfast.

A total of 819 candidates are running for 462 council seats across eleven different council areas, a decrease from the 893 candidates who sought election in 2014.

The Democratic Unionist Party are fielding 172, Sinn Fein 155, the Ulster Unionist Party 117, the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) 85, and Alliance 84.

Newcomer nationalist/republican party Aontú has 16 candidates in the first electoral test for Peadar Tóibín’s party since he left Sinn Féin last year. There are also six independent republicans in the running.

An informal ‘exit poll’ by a Belfast-based political scientist claimed to have measured an increase in the vote share for the Alliance Party. It also reported a decline for the SDLP, which is contesting the election for the first time on the heels of its recently announced partnership with the 26-County Fianna Fáil party.

Counting begins at 8am tomorrow and will continue through Saturday. The first results are expected to be announced on Friday afternoon.

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