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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Power talks start over assembly
Senedd, Cardiff Bay
It is still unclear who will hold the reins of power at the Senedd
Political parties are starting talks as they examine ways of forming a new Welsh Assembly Government.

Labour's failure to win enough seats at the election means it must rely on support from rivals to stay in power.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Lembit Opik did not rule out a coalition with Labour despite some opposition within his party.

The new assembly meets for the first time on Wednesday, but it still may not be clear who will be in charge.

Labour is the biggest party, with 26 out of the 60 seats, and its AMs will meet on Tuesday to discuss its options.

But senior Labour AM Huw Lewis said his party must take care before making any decisions.

The Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM said Labour was facing some "unappealing prospects," including Lib Dems tearing themselves apart, and Plaid Cymru, with whom Labour supporters had a huge ideological problem.

Lembit Opik MP
We have to make sure we don't compromise ourselves in the pursuit of power
Lembit Opik MP, Welsh Lib Dem leader

"Wales needs stable government and we have to work towards that," he said. "This is the grim reality even if we have to hold our noses.

"What was the message the electorate sent us? I think they clearly said 'we want Labour to govern,' but there was also an enormous 'but...' hanging over it."

Mr Lewis, who was deputy minister for social justice and regeneration in the last assembly, told BBC Wales' The Politics Show that he personally could not work in government with Plaid ministers.

Lembit Opik MP, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: "There are attractions to being in a coalition for Wales as well - the only period of stabiliity for the assembly, the only really progressive time, was the coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems.

"But we have to make sure we don't compromise ourselves in the pursuit of power, it's all about outcomes and we want what's best for the people of Wales."

Mr Opik said discussions within the party on Sunday looked at the "big picture" but he acknowledged that they would have to move fast over the next couple of days.

Several prominent Lib Dems have spoken out against coalition, including the leaders of four Welsh councils and South Wales West AM Peter Black.

Meanwhile, Mr Opik said there was also "overwhelming" support for the party's assembly leader Mike German.

"It's quite clear that Mike German is the right person to lead us in these negotiations," he told BBC Radio Wales.

Ballot box
Huw Lewis says voters wanted Labour, with an added 'but...'

If Lib Dems did refuse to support Labour, they would be following their colleagues in Scotland.

At the weekend Lib Dems ruled out a coalition deal with Labour in the Scottish Parliament - although the situation in Holyrood is different, because the Scottish National Party is the biggest group.

Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, whose 15 AMs are the second largest group, has said an informal agreement with Labour is a possibility.

Asked about an informal deal with Plaid, Mr Lewis said Labour would have to listen to all groups in order to have stability, but leaders would have to take party members with them.

'Go it alone'

Senior Plaid AM Dafydd Elis Thomas said his preferred option would be for Labour to go it alone, which "might not be comfortable but it might be good for the institution."

Lord Elis Thomas, who has been presiding officer since the assembly was founded in 1999, said "specific measures and policy decisions could be supported by other parties".

He said he was sure "that we as Plaid would like to be in that position so that we could influence government."

Another option in Wales is for a "rainbow coalition" of non-Labour parties.

But leading Conservative AM Alun Cairns said that while that was still possible, it was less likely.

The new assembly government has to be formed by 24 May. If not, there is the possibility of another election.

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