Vote 2011: Labour 'on course for assembly majority'

Labour is on course to win an outright majority in the Welsh assembly, says a leading political analyst.

Prof Roger Scully told BBC Wales it was difficult to see how Labour could win fewer than 30 seats, and a majority is likely, rather than just possible.

The Aberystwyth University expert's forecast came after Labour made significant gains, winning back both Llanelli and Blaenau Gwent.

Meanwhile, Lib Dems suffered a blow by losing Montgomeryshire to the Tories.

If Labour wins 31 seats it will be able to ditch Plaid Cymru, its coalition partner for the past years.

Image caption First Minister and Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones is hoping for a majority of 31 seats

Plaid was also hit by the loss of deputy leader Helen Mary Jones in Llanelli, but was relieved when Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones held Ceredigion.

Keith Davies, speaking in Welsh in his acceptance speech, called himself a socialist, a nationalist and a Welshman and said he was "looking forward to working hard for Wales and Llanelli".

But Helen Mary Jones, whose defeat means she is out of the assembly for the first time since it was founded in 1999, said: "We have been in this place before in this hall, and had come back. We will again."

Former prominent Plaid Cymru campaigner Sian Caiach, standing as an independent in Llanelli, polled more than 2,000 votes which might have gone to Plaid, said political commentator Dr Richard Wyn Jones.

In mid Wales, Tory Russell George took Montgomeryshire from the Lib Dems. The seat was won in 2007 by then Lib Dem candidate Mick Bates, who was expelled by the party after being convicted for drunkenly attacking a paramedic.

But Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams, who held Brecon and Radnorshire, said: "It's been a tough campaign for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. We've seen some disappointing results tonight.

Image caption Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said the party was constantly asked about the UK coalition

She added: "There's been a big challenge for us with our colleagues in Westminster in power for the first time. We're constantly being asked about the effects of the coalition impacting on our politics here."

Lib Dem-held Cardiff Central is said to be too close to call, and there is speculation the Conservatives may lose Cardiff North to Labour.

But Tories are hopeful that they could become the second biggest party, while the Greens and UKIP predict they may win their first seats, and both Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats fear they will suffer losses.

The party had been aiming to exceed the 12 seats they won in 2007.

In the last assembly, Labour held 26 seats, Plaid 14, Tories 13, Lib Dems six, and one independent.

Image caption Plaid Cymru deputy leader Helen Mary Jones leaves the assembly after losing Llanelli

UKIP, which returned its first Welsh MEP at the last European election, said it was confident it would break new ground by taking one of the four regional seats in South Wales East.

Green Party officials said they were "quietly confident" of their first AM, and are targeting 7% of the vote in the South Wales Central region, to elect their Welsh leader Jake Griffiths.

Plaid, however, has shed votes and seats. Party sources admitted it was a difficult campaign on the doorstep and they had not been expecting any gains.

Image caption Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, at the count in Swansea

Ron Davies, the former Labour Welsh Secretary who was in Tony Blair's first cabinet, faild to make a political comeback as the Plaid Cymru Caerphilly candidate.

Before his result was declared, Mr Davies said people wanted to send a message to Tories in Westminster through Labour votes.

"It's very sad, it undermines the whole point of devolution," he said.

Meanwhile, BNP officials in Swansea East said they had a "fabulous response" to campaigning, and were "optimistic".

Counting of votes cast in north Wales will not begin until later.

As well as assembly seats, people have also voted on whether to replace the first-past-the-post system for electing Westminster MPs with the alternative vote (AV). Counting will start in the AV referendum at 1600 BST on Friday.