The count is set to pick up again in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections later, with Sinn Fein firmly on track to become Stormont’s largest party.
When counting was suspended on Friday evening, only 47 of 90 seats had been filled following a lengthy process, with only four out of 18 constituency counts completed.
Sinn Fein currently has 18 seats, while the DUP has 12, the Alliance Party eight, the Ulster Unionists (UUP) four and the SDLP three, with one seat for TUV leader Jim Allister and one for independent trade unionist Alex Easton.
Sinn Fein also won the battle for the biggest share of the vote with 250,388 first preferences, against 184,002 for the DUP and 116,681 for the Alliance Party.
This means that he received 29% of the first preference votes, against 21.3% for the DUP, 13.5% for Alliance, 11.2% for the UUP and 9.1% for the SDLP.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s DUP will retain its position as the largest trade unionist party (Brian Lawless/PA)
Naomi Long’s Alliance party appears to be the other big winner in the election, with renewed support for the cross-community party likely to make it the third largest in Stormont, ahead of the UUP and SDLP, who all have both had disappointing results.
The DUP, led by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, will comfortably retain its position as the largest Unionist party despite a drop in its overall vote share.
Sinn Fein deputy chair Michelle O’Neill was elected at the first count in central Ulster, with Alliance leader Naomi Long leading the poll in east Belfast.
TUV leader Jim Allister retained his seat in North Antrim but his party seems unlikely to win any further seats.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey was elected at the first count in the Lagan Valley.
After his election, he issued a personal challenge to Boris Johnson to resolve outstanding issues over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, which unionists oppose as it imposes economic barriers between the region and the rest of the world. UK.
He said: ‘My message tonight is to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the Government in Westminster, they are co-guarantors of the (Good Friday) agreement and they have the opportunity to act to ensure political stability. restored.
“I recognize that we have our differences, especially when it comes to protocol, but I think we all agree that this is an issue that needs to be resolved and the sooner it is resolved the better for us. all of us.”
2022 NI Assembly Election
Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party, at the Titanic Exhibition Center in Belfast, speaking to the media after her return as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (Liam McBurney/PA)
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie faced a challenge in terms of his re-election in Upper Bann.
Ms O’Neill was surrounded by colleagues and party supporters as she led the polls in central Ulster.
She said Sinn Fein wanted to “work together in partnership with others”.
“It’s the only way to accomplish much, much more for the people here, whether it’s in terms of the cost of living crisis or trying to fix our health service.”
Some 239 candidates ran in 18 constituencies.
Five Assembly seats are up for grabs in each of the 18 constituencies.
Northern Ireland uses the single transferable vote proportional representation electoral system.