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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 22:00 GMT
Leaders debate turnout worry
Panel of party leaders
Dragon's Eye brought the four Welsh party leaders together
Leaders of the four major political parties in Wales have admitted that turnout could be a big problem in the second Welsh Assembly elections next May.

The comments were made during the first ever televised debate between all four on Thursday evening.

The historic debate on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye saw the quartet lock horns over political issues of the day, including elections to the assembly next May.

Ieuan Wyn Jones
Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones was on the panel
Labour party leader and First Minister Rhodri Morgan pinned the blame for falling votes on a world-wide slump in the number of people who vote.

He said parts of the Western world had entered "comfort zone politics", and pointed to the 39% turnout in the US Congressional elections as an example.

"We won't know until 2 May but I certainly intend to address the question of Labour turnout.

"Obviously, election results are frequently determined by differential turnout, that one party gets its supporters out and the others don't,

"That's how elections are won and lost," Mr Morgan added.


The challenge is for politics to be able to attract people to the issues rather than the argy-bargy that goes on between politicians

Mike German

He was backed up by his coalition partner Mike German, Deputy First Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats in Cardiff Bay.

"I think [turnout] is a problem for politics. People, generally speaking, don't like party politics as much as they used to," Mr German told BBC Wales political editor David Williams.

"But they are interested in the issues raised by the field of politics.

"The challenge is for politics to be able to attract people to the issues rather than the argy-bargy that goes on between politicians, to get to the meat of things, which is about the issues that face people in their everyday lives."

But Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones and the Conservative leader in the assembly Nick Bourne claimed people were unimpressed with the way the assembly government had performed.


I think people are disengaged with what's happening

Nick Bourne

Mr Wyn Jones said: "I think we're facing a very difficult position because I think the likelihood, on current form, is that the turnout will be lower than in 1999.

"I think it is an indictment of the way the assembly has been run in the first four years.

"We have to accept people haven't been excited by it.

"The government has a responsibility to govern.

"People currently are not satisfied with the way the assembly has been doing it.

Polls

Nick Bourne told the panel that although the Conservatives had been against the assembly before it was set up, they had moved to a position of trying to make it work.

"I think people are disengaged with what's happening," he said.

"We haven't had delivery on the health service, we haven't had delivery on education.

"We've got cynicism about an assembly building most people don't want in Wales but only my party is against."

Recent polls have indicated that turnout at the elections is only likely to be 37%.

At the first elections to the assembly in May 1999, 46% of people returned a ballot slip.

See also:

19 Sep 02 | Wales
04 Dec 02 | Politics
06 Nov 02 | Americas
13 Aug 02 | Politics
01 Aug 02 | Politics
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