Labour on course for sixth Senedd win as voters head to polls – but will they need a Plaid coalition?
Voters are heading to the polls today at the Senedd elections, with the shape of the next Welsh Government in the balance.
Polls for the make-up of the Welsh Parliament will remain open until 10pm and voters are being encouraged to take their own mask and pen due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
It is also a historic moment for 16 and 17-year-olds and foreign nationals who are able to vote in Wales for the first time.
Health, social care and the economy are expected to be top of the list of voters’ priorities, although constitutional issues around independence and devolution have played a part in the campaigning too.
Although Labour are expected to win the election – the sixth since devolution was established – they may fall short of a majority and need a coalition government with another party.
With both Labour and Plaid Cymru ruling out a deal with the Conservatives, a Labour-Plaid coalition seems most likely.
In his final message to voters, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Partnership is the Welsh Labour way.
“Welsh Labour Government working with local councils to create jobs, thriving economies and new opportunities.”
Will such an emphasis on partnership extend to sharing government? However, Labour may look to govern alone if they manage to win close to the 31 seats they need.
Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price meanwhile finished with a call for a change of government: “I want to prove to you that Plaid Cymru is driven by something different – not by Westminster diktat but by a sincere desire to deliver for our country.
“I want us to form the next government of Wales not for the power, but for the privilege of leading our nation and for the potential that will be unleashed by our radical and transformational programme.
“As you head to the polling station today, ask yourself two simple questions: Can Wales have a future that is greener, fairer, and more prosperous? And isn’t it time we had a government ready to make that a reality?”
As polls opened, key seats remain in the balance, including a number of Labour-held marginals in the northeast of Wales including Wrexham, the Vale of Clwyd and Clwyd South.
The Conservatives swept many of these so-called ‘red wall’ seats at the Westminster General Election in 2019.
In the south of Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan is also up for grabs, as are Gower and Cardiff North, although these may be a bridge too far for the Conservatives.
Plaid Cymru too will be hoping to make gains in seats such as Llanelli, Caerphilly, and Cardiff West, the seat of the current First Minister Mark Drakeford.
All three parties will also hope to sweep up seats on the regional lists, which are being vacated by seven former UKIP Senedd members elected in 2016.
For the Liberal Democrats, this election is about survival. They are defending their last constituency in Wales at a Senedd and Westminster level in Brecon and Radnorshire.
Other seats, such as the Greens, Abolish the Assembly, Reform UK and UKIP will be hoping to squeeze over the 7-8% threshold needed to start picking up seats on the regional list.
Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies, in particular, seems to be aware of this threat on his right flank, warning that a vote for anyone else but the Conservatives could rob his party of key seats.
“Vote Welsh Conservative three times today,” he said. “Anything else is a vote for Labour and the nationalists.”