Unionists and Sinn Fein accused of election 'carve-up'
Instead of the political fireworks often generated in Northern Ireland contests, the current campaign has been one of unprecedented dullness – voters will go to the polls tomorrow against predictions of a particularly low turnout.
Even the outside possibility that a republican surge might give Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness enough seats to become First Minister has failed to produce real alarm among Protestant voters.
With major constitutional issues fading into the background, most campaign debate has centred on bread and butter issues which are not usually to the fore in Northern Ireland contests: health and education have been prominent.
The results are expected to consolidate the positions of the two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, which have formed a partnership that has come to dominate local politics.
The close relationship that has developed between the two has led to complaints from smaller parties that they have together engineered a "carve-up" of power. During the campaign the big two have carefully avoided clashing with each other, concentrating instead on attacking their opponents.
The Assembly has contributed to a growing sense of stability during its four-year term. But it has also been criticised as cumbersome and slow-moving, leading many of the parties to call for reforms to its structure.
The fact that no supporters of violent republican groups are fighting the election is taken as a recognition of the fact that, with their limited support, they would attract a humiliatingly small number of votes.
One of the few incidents of note during the campaign came several days ago when the First Minister, Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionists, over-balanced and toppled into his fish pond.
Well known as an enthusiast for koi carp, as he called for help, he said his family "either chortled and convulsed, or searched for insurance policies". He added: "Responses about slippery slopes, 'carping' on about issues and expressions of concern about my fish do not meet my need for sympathy."
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...