Opposition parties have raised concerns over the suggestion that the Senedd elections next May could be delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Voters in Wales are due to head to the polls next May to vote in the Welsh parliamentary elections. However, concerns that the elections may be delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have caused tension in the Senedd chamber.
In the event that the coronavirus situation in Wales was “extremely serious”, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have all said they would support a delay to the elections.
However, the Welsh Conservatives and Brexit Party have pointed out that other elections have gone ahead – like those currently taking place in New Zealand and those due to take place in the US – despite public health restrictions, and rather support continuing as planned.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister has said that he remains “very committed” to having voters head to the polls as planned, despite suggestions from those within his own party that the vote should be delayed.
“That is absolutely the right thing, that is what I think should happen.
“It is not right that the Senedd should be extended beyond its current term. I feel very strongly that the Senedd needs a democratic refresh,” added Drakeford.
But, as is often the case with the ongoing crisis, nothing is set in stone, and there is more than enough time for the situation to develop before the vote in May.
The concerns have been raised as more than two thirds of the Welsh population find themselves among local lockdown restrictions. Any agreed postponement would also delay the first opportunity for Welsh 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
The Welsh Government’s elections planning group, which works to decide on and plan elections in Wales, has met throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, which involves all five of the Senedd’s major parties, is examining the ways in which the election could be legally delayed if concerns over public health continue.
The group is reportedly considering a number of scenarios, including an increase in the provision of postal and proxy votes, as well as options for voters who still find themselves in local lockdowns.
However, the parties remain divided on whether additional powers should be handed to the parliament’s Presiding Officer, Elin Jones, to make a decision about whether to delay the election for “one month or more”.
When the report is finalised, it will be debated in the Senedd chamber, and a final decision about whether to go ahead with the delay made.
Elections across the UK have been delayed this year, with the polls for Police and Crime Commissioners, the London mayoral election and local elections pushed to May 2021.
The last Senedd elections were delayed from 2015 to 2016 after the originally-planned elections clashed with a general election. A similar scenario happened prior to the 2003 Welsh local elections, ensuring that they would not clash with the then Welsh Assembly elections.
There are still several months before May, but the First Minister made clear that “we want an election in which every Welsh citizen feels they can go to the polling station and are not put off from doing so because the state of public health at the time might be very off putting to them.”twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics. Politics Morgan Perry