After the predicted victory of Sinn Fein in the general election in Northern Ireland, all eyes are on the formation of a government.

For the first time in Northern Ireland's history, the nationalist pro-Reunification party will be able to nominate the First Minister.

But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which would now have to name the deputy, has indicated it will not enter a government under Sinn Fein.

Lengthy negotiations are expected in Belfast.

Jochen Buchsteiner

Political correspondent in London.

  • Follow I follow

Sinn Fein, led by top candidate Michelle O'Neill, achieved 27 mandates in the 90-seat chamber after the counting of almost all votes (only one constituency was still missing by late Saturday evening).

The DUP, which had been the strongest party since 2007, only got 24 seats.

Above all, it lost votes to the radical split-off "Traditional Unionist Voice" (TUV) and the "Alliance Party", which sees itself as cross-camp.

Even before all the votes were counted, DUP boss Jeffrey Donaldson had admitted the defeat of the DUP on Saturday.

At the same time, he reiterated his rejection of his party's participation in government as long as there are no changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which regulates the customs regulations for the region in the post-Brexit agreement with the EU.

Brexit weakened the unionist cause

According to pollsters, the DUP, which was led into the elections by Donaldson after internal power struggles, was primarily punished for its Brexit policy.

Unlike the majority in the country, the DUP welcomed Brexit, which, however, weakened the unionist cause through the way it was drafted.

Since the end of the so-called transition phase, there has been a goods border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Northern Ireland's special status has brought the country closer to the Irish Republic and the EU.

The President of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou MacDonald, who is also successful in the Irish Republic, said on Saturday night that her party would push for a reunification referendum (“Border Poll”) over the next five years.

In an interview with a British broadcaster, she recalled the need for voting in both the north and south of the island, saying: "In the coming years, certainly in this decade, we will see constitutional change on the island of Ireland see.

I believe that the referendum is possible in a five-year time frame."

During the election campaign, Sinn Fein did not focus on the referendum goal, but rather on social issues.

According to the Good Friday Agreement, which ended the civil war in 1998, a referendum is not possible without the consent of London.

The criterion is that there must be a majority for reunification.

So far, this can neither be derived from surveys nor from the election results.

The Conservative Party's operational leader in London, Oliver Dowden, said on Friday the UK government would honor its commitment after hosting a referendum if there was a "sustainable majority" for reunification.

At the same time, he made it clear how the government would position itself in such a case: "Boris Johnson and the entire Cabinet are passionate Unionists and we believe in the value of Northern Ireland as a part of our United Kingdom."