Counting begins in Stormont Assembly election

Counting begins in Stormont Assembly election

COUNTING HAS begun in Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly election.

The verifications of the ballots began at 8am on Friday morning, with the first results expected later this afternoon.

A total of 239 candidates are contesting 90 seats. Each of the constituencies will elect five members of the legislative assembly (MLAs).

Indicative figures from Northern Ireland's Electoral Office put the turnout at around 54% as of 9pm last night. At the last Stormont Assembly election in 2017, overall turnout stood at 64%.

Votes will be counted at three centres - Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, Ulster University in Jordanstown and Meadowban Sport Arena in Magherafelt.

Going into the election, Sinn Féin was ahead in the polls. If they do in fact transpire to get the most votes, it will be the first time a nationalist party would have held such a position in Northern Ireland since it was founded over a century ago.

Polls also placed the Alliance Party as having a significant surge in support.

The final seat will likely be filled tomorrow under the Single Transferable Vote system.

Once the 90 seats are filled, the parties will meet at Stormont next week to try to form an Executive.

The DUP has said it will not return to the mandatory coalition government unless its concerns over the Northern Ireland protocol are addressed.

Neither of the two main unionist parties have confirmed whether they would nominate a Deputy First Minister if Sinn Féin were to take the First Minister's position.