ASSEMBLY ELECTION 2003: Low Turnout Puts Legitimacy of Assembly at Risk, Says Wigley

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Byline: Andrew Woodcock

THE NATIONAL Assembly could be facing a confidence crisis this morning after early results suggested a collapse in turnout.

In Alyn Deeside in North Wales the turnout was just 25%, less than half the turnout there in the 1999 Assembly elections.

Elsewhere many turnouts were hovering below 40% or less and not one showed improvements on last time.

Despite the low turnout, Labour was making progress back into the heartlands from which it was thrown in 1999, largely at the expense of Plaid Cymru.

Notwithstanding yesterday's good weather in most parts of Wales and a near pounds 2m campaign by the Electoral Commission to try to get the vote out, the majority of voters had clearly turned their back on the poll.

And that will be a major worry for all the political parties involved in the battle for Cardiff Bay.

Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley warned a poor turn-out risked undermining the legitimacy of the Assemb

y.

``It is disappointing but there has been a drop in Scotland as well,'' he said.

``There have been some factors such as the Iraq war which have cut across the general flow of politics.

``But nonetheless it is worrying and it does to some extent undermine the legitimacy of the Assembly.''

Last night Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said, ``I heard that there would be a low turnout. Clearly, in terms of the picture across Wales, the collapse in turnout is very worrying.

``It isn't just Wales. Pretty much everywhere in the democratic world, turnout is down.

``I think we're going to do quite well tonight.

``Reasonable turnout is 50-60%. We aren't going to get that.

``In places like the Rhondda, turnout may be higher.''

Shadow Welsh secretary Nigel Evans said the low turn-out cast doubt over plans for regional government in England.

``It does have a knock-on effect,'' he told BBC Wales.

Estimates of turnouts elsewhere early this morning were (with 1999 figures shown in brackets): # Rhondda 43% (50.2) # Caerphilly: 37% (43.2%) # Llanelli: 35% (48.6%) # Carmarthen West and Dine-fwr: 38% (50.6%). # Vale of Glamorgan 39% (48.3%) # Ynys Mon 51% (59. …