08 February 2007

Over the water

Over the next few weeks, I'll be adding Northern Ireland to my brief, mainly as this is an important time with a major election coming up, but also because the election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will be conducted under STV, so it's required viewing for anyone seeking election to a local Council in Scotland. Obviously, there are differences (the electorates are far larger - they're the same as the Westminster Constituencies - and there are 6 MLAs per Constituency rather than 3 or 4 Councillors per ward), but the principle, especially for parties who are fielding more than one candidate in a ward, is worth looking at.

Anyway, today I'm focussing on another element that will play a part on polling day. The Northern Ireland Electoral Office reports that twenty-five different nationalities are registered to vote: nearly 2,000 Poles are on the Electoral Roll, along with 900 Portuguese and 800 Lithuanians. It's expected that 6,000 foreign nationals will vote on 7 March. Now, that's just a drop in the ocean: there are an estimated 30,000 Poles in NI, but even so, the 6,000 people from other EU countries who are signing up could have a major impact on the Election.

So you can see why in Scotland, parties are publishing leaflets in Polish. EU nationals could win (or lose) a marginal constituency for a party, and they will definitely have an effect on the Regional Vote, to say nothing of the local elections. It's a factor that not many people have paid attention to, and it could have a major effect.

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