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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Plaid blame voter apathy on Labour
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Mr Jones said 'complacent' policies turned voters off
Plaid Cymru has blamed Labour for the low turn-out in the Swansea East by-election.

Party president Ieuan Wyn Jones said the 22.5% turn-out in the Welsh Assembly's first by-election showed voters were disillusioned with "inaction and complacency" from the coalition-led body.

Val Lloyd AM
Val Lloyd retained the seat for Labour
"Most of that can be put down to the fact that the voters found the policies being pursued in the assembly to be a complete turn off," he said.

Val Lloyd retained the seat for Labour on 27 September with a 58% majority and just 7,484 votes.

The ballot numbers were 13.5% down on the original 1999 election, won by Val Feld, whose death during the summer prompted poll.

Mr Jones said the "shocking" response could be just the tip of the iceberg.

He added: "Unless the coalition promote policies which are more relevant to the whole of Wales, I fear that the low turnout in Swansea East is only the first indication of voter apathy on a massive scale.

'Thumbs down'

"Far from giving Labour a mandate, the voters in Swansea gave a massive thumbs down to the way Labour and their bedfellows, the Liberal Democrats, are running the assembly."

"They kept asking 'What has the assembly done for Swansea?' They gave the answer by staying away from the polling stations in their droves."

The Plaid leader accused First Minister Rhodri Morgan of failing to develop a radical programme of policies for Wales, leaving voters to question what exactly the assembly was doing - he had "lost the plot"

And he predicted voters would stay away in increasing numbers at the next Welsh Assembly elections in 2003.

Low turn-out

However, bad weather and international affairs were also blamed by other commentators for the low turn-out.

Labour's Wales Office Minister Don Touhig MP said: "This is sour grapes of the first order. We swept them off the streets.

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister
Rhodri Morgan: Accused of 'inaction and complacency'
"The nationalist vote has collapsed - they got half the votes they had in May 1999.

"Voter apathy is an issue for all involved in public life, as Plaid Cymru have acknowleged in the past.

"Labour has already put in place legislation to increase participation in the democratic process and we are piloting initiatives including weekend voting, voting in supermarkets and all-postal ballots."

As the Labour Party conference kicked off in Brighton on Sunday, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, too, warned delegates assembly business was "absolutely central" to Welsh people.

After the 59% turn-out in the 2001 general election, the Electoral Commission proposed a number of changes to the UK election system, including internet voting and polling over several days.

See also:

24 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Report tackles voter apathy
21 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague denies voter apathy claim
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