Dublin, May 5 (EFE).- Just over 1.3 million voters are being called to the polls for the Northern Ireland assembly election in which the nationalist Sinn Féin party, whose central cause is Irish reunification, is expected to claim a historic victory.
Pre-election polling suggests the currently dominant political force in the country, the Democratic Unionist Party, which contrary to Sinn Féin campaigns for Northern Ireland’s continuation in the United Kingdom, will come second in the vote.
However, the DUP has threatened to decline its place in the power-sharing regional executive, a format designed to keep the peace after decades of sectarian conflict known as the Troubles, if London and Brussels fail to redraw the Brexit agreement to its satisfaction.
The DUP, which backed Brexit, has protested against the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, a mechanism in the withdrawal agreement to safeguard the open border on Ireland by moving customs checks on goods flowing between the European Union and the UK to the Irish Sea.
Unionist communities see the measure as detrimental to their place within the UK and have also watched with concern as Brexit fuels calls for a referendum on Irish reunification, a flagship policy of Sinn Féin, whose vice president Michelle O’Neill is poised to become Northern Ireland’s next first minister.
A possible outcome of the election is prolonged political paralysis should the DUP decline to cooperate in the power-sharing executive having come second to Sinn Féin, a former political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the leading belligerent against unionist paramilitaries and the British state in the decades-long conflict that ended in 1998.
An emergent voice in Northern Irish politics that shirks the nationalist-unionist division is the Alliance party, a liberal group that is predicted to make headway in the elections.
Voting in the Northern Ireland elections is due to finish at 9pm local time on Thursday with the count set to begin on Friday morning. EFE