DUP leadership election set to be held on May 14th
Edwin Poots and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson have announced their intention to stand
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson poses for photographers at DUP headquarters in Belfast as he announces his bid to be the next DUP leader. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Screen grab from footage taken from the Twitter feed of Edwin Poots, as he announced his intention to stand for the leadership of the DUP. Photograph: Edwin Poots/PA Wire
The election to choose the next leader of the DUP will take place on Friday, May 14th, the party announced on Tuesday. It is the first time the party has held a leadership election in its 50-year history.
The party chairman, Lord Morrow, made the announcement following a meeting of party officers to determine how and when the vote would take place.
The leadership contest follows the resignation of DUP leader Arlene Foster last week after more than three-quarters of MLAs and half of MPs signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership.
Mrs Foster will step down as DUP leader on May 28th, and as Stormont First Minister at the end of June.
Only the party’s 28 Assembly members (MLAs) and eight MPs will be eligible to vote.
There had been a question mark over whether the South Down MLA Jim Wells, who does not take the party whip, would be allowed to vote in the election. He confirmed to The Irish Times on Tuesday that he was “delighted” to vote, and has received the same voting material as other MLAs.
The winner will require 19 votes to become leader, but there is also the possibility of a tie at 18-18.
Sources within the party have indicated the vote could be tight, and that while Mr Poots was initially the frontrunner there is also significant support for Mr Donaldson, with a number of voters undecided.
The MPs Gavin Robinson and Jim Shannon and the North’s Minister for Education Peter Weir and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons, have declared their support for Mr Donaldson, while a number of senior Assembly members, including Mr Wells, are backing Mr Poots.
Under the procedure agreed by the DUP officers, candidates for both posts must submit an application of interest, in writing and supported by a proposer and seconder from those eligible to vote, by 5pm on Thursday, May 6th.
At the meeting on May 14th , which is to be conducted virtually, each leadership candidate will have 10 minutes to speak, and each candidate for the deputy leadership five minutes.
Following the meeting a voting station will open, with voting to take place by secret ballot, and a result expected at about 5pm on May 14th.
The outcome will then be put to the party’s central executive committee for ratification.
It is understood the candidate to the post of First Minister will then be selected by a nominations officer appointed by the new leader.
Mr Poots confirmed to the North’s Assembly on Tuesday that he has “no desire” to hold the post, and is expected to continue in his current ministerial position.
MLAs from other parties on Tuesday paid tribute to Ms Foster during an Assembly sitting, and the BBC reported that she did not take part in a morning meeting with the DUP’s Assembly team.
Deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill joined the tributes, saying she wanted to wish Ms Foster “all the very best for the future”, but also delivered a message to whoever will replace her as First Minister.
“I also want to say that my determination is to work closely with the incoming minister. They should be in no doubt of my determination to ensure the delivery of the outstanding commitments, particularly where citizens’ rights are yet to be delivered in respect of language and culture, legacy and women’s health care,” she told MLAs.