Council by-election vote too close to call

A high-profile by-election in the North remained too close to call today with little more than 100 votes between the two leading candidates after the first round of counting.

A high-profile by-election in the North remained too close to call today with little more than 100 votes between the two leading candidates after the first round of counting.

The poll in Enniskillen has assumed major significance, given the current difficulties of the Democratic Unionist (DUP) and Sinn Féin-led administration at Stormont.

The DUP ensured there would be intense focus on the council race when it fielded Economy Minister Arlene Foster as its candidate.

Mrs Foster polled 1,925 votes in the first count, edging her ahead of Sinn Fein candidate Debbie Coyle who polled 1,815.

The contest was expected to be a straight fight between Northern Ireland’s two main parties but the Ulster Unionists also polled strongly, with candidate Basil Johnson recording 1,436 votes in the first round.

While Mrs Foster remains slight favourite to take the seat vacated by the death of DUP veteran Joe Dodds, the way the votes transfer in the remaining counts will be crucial.

Early indications suggest that voters for the SDLP, whose candidate Rosemary Flanagan registered a modest 739 votes, are strongly supporting the UUP candidate as their second preference.

Cross-community Alliance Party candidate Dr Kumar Kamble received 231 votes while independent republican Karen McHugh registered 158.

Sinn Féin has requested a re-count of the first preferance vote so a final result is not expected until early afternoon.

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