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Flash: Assembly election - Final result

Counting in the Belfast Assembly elections is drawing to a close this
evening with significant gains for Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's DUP, a
major setback for Reg Empey's UUP, a breakthrough for the Green Party
and the apparent final demise of Bob McCartney's UKUP.

Attention is now turning to efforts to persuade the Dublin and London
governments to stick to their March 26th deadline for a powersharing

The DUP entered the election with 32 seats and appeared on course to
end up with 36 seats. Sinn Fein had 24 seats and has won 28.

The SDLP, which saw its vote drop from 117,000 to 105,000, is set to
win 16 seats. It failed to pick up target seats in Newry and Armagh and

It was a disastrous election for the Ulster Unionist Party, with its
vote slumping from 156,000 to just 103,000, half of what the DUP won.
It currently is on target for 18 seats.

The Alliance Party proved a success. It entered the election with six
seats and has won seven, with Naomi Long polling very strongly in east
Belfast and Ann Lo winning a seat in South Belfast, a constituency with
a high immigrant population.

UK unionist leader Robert McCartney issued an emotional statement after
he failed to hold his seat in North Down, expressing satisfaction at
his political career and wishing an unnamed successor well.

The Green Party's Brian Wilson scored a notable success, winning a seat
in McCartney's constituency. - who ran in several constituencies - was
earlier eliminated from his home constituency of North Down after
polling only 1,800 first preference votes.

Meanwhile Gerry McGeough, an independent republican candidate in the
Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency, continues to be interrogated by
British forces after he was arrested outside the Omagh count centre
yesterday. After a mixed result, other independent republicans who
failed to gain a foothold in the Assembly said they would build towards
future local council elections.

The turnout was similar to the last Assembly election in November 2003
when slightly more than 63 per cent of the electorate voted. More than
1.11 million voters using 600 polling stations returned 108 Assembly
members chosen from among 256 candidates.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein used skilful vote management to extract
seats from their strongholds. The DUP took four seats in Strangford
and North Antrim, while Sinn Fein pulled five in West Belfast and three
in West Tyrone. The DUP's Gregory Campbell - who was elected in East
Derry - said his party's vote management was paying off.

The destination of the last assembly seats was being closely watched by
the parties as assembly strength determines the number of ministerial
designations each party receives. According to the d'Hondt formula, the
ten positions in the Ministerial Executive, assuming one is formed,
will be distributed as follows: DUP (4), SF (3), UUP (2), SDLP (1).

Earlier today, British prime minister Tony Blair and 26-County
taoiseach Bertie Ahern said in a joint statement that voters in the Six
Counties had issued a clear message they want devolved [power-sharing]
government back.

The premiers said: "Restoration of the devolved institutions represents
an opportunity of historic proportions."

After a hardline statement yesterday by the DUP leader Ian Paisley,
calling for further "delivery" from Sinn Fein, there was some concern
that Mr Blair appeared to pull back from the stated March 26th
'deadline' for the return of power-sharing.

Later, British officials played down Blair's apparent lack of
commitment to the deadline.

Speaking after a meeting with British Direct Ruler Peter Hain, Sinn
Fein President Gerry Adams said: "We look to both governments to accept
what the people overwhelmingly voted for.

"That is for local politicians who sought a mandate to execute that
mandate in the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr Hain warned that he needs an answer on power-sharing from the
North's parties by 25 March -- just over two weeks away.

Sinn Fein nominee for the post of Deputy First Minister Martin
McGuinness today said that the electorate had delivered a clear mandate
for a power sharing executive.

Speaking at a press conference in Belfast, Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein
was up for the challenge of government in both parts of Ireland -- hos
party formally launched its campaign for the general election in the 26
Counties with a major election rally in Dublin city centre today.

"We are eager to get down to the business of delivering for all of the
people," he said. "We are eager to get down to the business of tackling
the very many social and economic issues which came up at he doorsteps,
be it water charges, rates increases or health and education cuts.

"People should make no mistake about it, Sinn Fein are ready for
government and there is no reason why this should not happen by the
March 26th. So we will approach the coming weeks positively and with
the intention of securing power sharing government in the north and
agreement with the British and Irish governments on a substantial peace
dividend to allow the new executive to deliver real and tangible

Final result:

DUP 36 (+6)
SF 28 (+4)
UUP 18 (-9)
SDLP 16 (-2)
All. 7 (+1)
Gre. 1 (+1)
Ind. 1

Full result details available at

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