Counting in the Northern Assembly election resumed at 9am on Saturday morning.
Counting was suspended at all three counting centres, at the Titanic Convention Center in East Belfast, the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, Co Antrim and the Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt, Co Derry, at around midnight on Friday.
By the end of the game, just over half of the 90 seats were filled. Sinn Féin was on 18 seats, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on 12, the Alliance on seven, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) on four, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) on three and others on two.
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Sinn Féin is on course to return the largest number of seats and make history as Northern Ireland’s first nationalist Prime Minister.
The party is expected to win the largest number of seats in the Assembly, the first time a nationalist party would be the largest party since Northern Ireland’s creation more than 100 years ago.
Sinn Féin garnered around 250,000 first-choice votes and increased its share of the vote from one to 29 percent, compared to the DUP which garnered around 184,000 first-choice votes, a loss of nearly seven percent to 21 percent, partly due to an increase in the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) vote.
However, the DUP has a cushion of up to half a share in some constituencies, which will help it retain seats even if its share of the vote has dropped. He is hoping to retain 25, down three from the 28 he took in 2017.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Friday night that she thought she would keep her 27 seats and potentially add two more.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms. McDonald praised the importance of her party’s victory, saying “it was not just symbolic that we are, it now appears, on the cusp of a nationalist or a republican at the helm of the executive, being the first minister in the North.
“It is significant because it is a moment of equality. He says that there is no job that is out of reach for just anyone.”
He also said that as Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, would “lead for all” and engage with unionists and “work together” to prepare a reunified Ireland.
The other success story on Friday was the Alianza Party, which also increased its share of votes and, according to party sources, is confident of obtaining at least five and up to eight seats.
The SDLP and UUP vote declined, with UUP leader Doug Beattie under pressure to be re-elected in his constituency.
He told The Irish Times on Friday night that he faced a struggle to hold on to his Upper Bann seat and perhaps the party leadership.
“I am willing to stay on as party leader, but if the party decides not to, that is up to them,” he said.
The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole, who was elected in south Belfast just before the count was suspended for the night, said it had been a “difficult day for people in our party” and that the move towards Sinn Féin and the Alliance had “created a challenge”. for us”.
The Government urged the DUP on Friday night to return to the Executive amid serious doubts about whether there will be a functioning Assembly after the elections.
The then DUP Prime Minister Paul Givan resigned in February as part of his party’s protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, which he opposed, which also removed Sinn Féin’s Ms O’Neill as Deputy Prime Minister and severely restricted the powers of the Executive.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who led the poll in his Lagan Valley constituency, indicated Friday that there will be no quick fix to the impasse.
He told RTÉ News that unless the UK government takes action on the Northern Ireland protocol, which unionists oppose, it will not appoint ministers to the executive.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that there was an “obligation of all those elected to take their seats in the Assembly and form an Executive.”
On Friday, Donaldson declined to say whether he will return to Stormont after being voted MLA for Lagan Valley after the first count.
He got 12,626 votes and said that one of the messages of the election was that “divided unionism does not win votes.”
When asked if he will return to the Assembly, he said: “We will see what the final result is. There is everything to play. The DUP is very much in the game right now. I have made it clear that we need the government to take decisive action on the protocol. Words are not enough.”