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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Dawn of democracy for druids
BBC Wales's Grahame Davies reports from Denbigh

The Crown and the Chair are not the only prizes up for grabs at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh this year.

At stake also is the role of Archdruid of Wales, the ceremonial leader of the Gorsedd of Bards, the colourful collection of the great and the good of Welsh-speaking Wales who provide the Eisteddfod with its characteristic pageantry at its main ceremonies.

Traditionally, this figurehead position has not been a hugely controversial role, and the selection process has usually been a genteel, if rather secretive affair.

It might not result in a Gore-Bush-style cliffhanger, and it might well not be a Blair-style landslide. But it will for the first time in the Gorsedd's history be democratic. Here

This year it is different, as the Gorsedd conducts its first-ever democratic vote on who should be the next Archdruid.

All members of the Gorsedd are eligible to vote and although not quite in the league of the Conservative leadership race, it has nonetheless generated considerable interest.

The smart money is going on Robyn Lewis, an author and lawyer from Pen Llyn, and a tireless campaigner for the position of the Welsh language in the legal world and in public life in general.

He has made no secret of his desire for the job and has posted an election leaflet to all green-robed members of the Gorsedd.

If he wins, he would be the first Archdruid not to be either a crowned or chaired poet.

Thanks to a relaxation in the eligibility rules a few years ago, he qualifies as a potential Archdruid due to his having won the Eisteddfod's Prose Medal.

Previously, it was a case of only crowned or chaired bards need apply.

His main opponent is the crowned poet T James Jones, who would be seen as a natural successor to the series of south Walian Archdruids who have also been members of the Welsh Union of Independents denomination.

This is the monopoly which Robyn Lewis has set out to break.

People's candidate

The outsider is Selwyn Griffiths who lacks the national profile of the other two candidates, but who has also been busy with telephone canvassing.

He has positioned himself as the 'people's candidate', claiming support from the scores of small local eisteddfodau which are held in villages throughout Wales.

Although he is very much the dark horse of the competition, he could well benefit from tactical voting if polarised opinion causes a spectacular Portillo-style upset for the other two candidates.

The votes have been cast and counted, and the results will be released on Friday.

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