Getting involved in the election prediction contest

Whilst the five main party leaders have been rehearsing their lines ahead of tonight's BBC 1 election debate at 10.40 pm, political anoraks are busy predicting exactly how many MLAs each leader might return with to the new Assembly.

You can enter the prediction contest on a couple of websites including the assembly2011 website where you can suggest which six MLAs you believe will be returned in each constituency.

It's obviously not a scientific poll, rather a small selection of those who voraciously follow Stormont stuff.

For what it's worth, the average prediction is that the DUP will retain biggest party status, whilst the UUP will slip back into fourth position with just 15 MLAs.

This would see them losing their second minister. Although the average prediction has Alliance gaining a seat with eight MLAs, I think that wouldn't be enough for the party to pick up a second department as of right.

The contestants reckon the TUV's Jim Allister is the most likely new entrant to the Assembly, whilst the SDLP's Declan O'Loan is the sitting MLA most widely predicted to get the chop.

In contrast to last year's Westminster election, the political soothsayers reckon Peter Robinson is a dead cert to hold on to his East Belfast seat.

This isn't the only prediction contest you can enter. Over at the Stratagem political consultancy website, whoever gets closest to the real Assembly result can win an Ian Knox cartoon.

The website doesn't give a breakdown of its 115 predictions so far, but my spies at Stratagem tell me they are foreseeing a dead heat between the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists on 16 seats apiece.

If that did happen in real life, the authorities would have to use the number of first preference votes each party received as a tie breaker.

Again the Stratagem anoraks envisage Alliance on just eight MLAs, but I'm told in this scenario Alliance first preference votes might have to be counted to determine who gets a final department.

The Stratagem fortune tellers see the DUP on 35 seats ahead of Sinn Fein on 29 (two more than the Assembly 2011 forecast), joined by one TUV, one Green and two independents.

But of course these aren't the real results, just a bit of fun and the average prediction will change as more people try their luck. The Stratagem poll closes, like the real one, at 10.00 pm on Thursday.

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