What happens after election day?

03 May 2022 - by Anna Mercer

When all votes are counted and the election result declared, the focus of Stormont’s political parties will immediately move from the doorsteps and count centres to the corridors of Stormont.

But what is the process for the meeting of a new Assembly and forming an Executive?

Following an election, the Assembly is required to meet within eight working days. MLAs will sign the Register and the first item of business will be to elect a new Speaker.

Under previous provisions, the Assembly then had 14 days from the first meeting to appoint the Executive Committee of Ministers, including the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

For example, following the 2011 Assembly election on 5 May 2011, the Executive was formed on 16 May. Similarly, in the 2016 election, the First and deputy First Ministers were appointed on 12 May (one week after the election), with the remaining Executive Ministers in post by 25 May.

However, recent legislation passed by Westminster extends this 14-day period to a maximum of 24 weeks, made up of an initial six-week period that can be renewed three times.*

The change is intended to give space to the political parties, following an election, for negotiations on forming an Executive, without the cliff edge of the Secretary of State coming under a legal duty to call another election after the 14-day period has elapsed.

Critically, the legislation also allows for the current Executive to remain in place in the new mandate, until a new Executive is formed. The one exception here is that in a scenario where a sitting Executive Minister is not returned to the new Assembly, then their party can nominate a replacement.

This is both important and helpful as it brings us in line with many other jurisdictions, and acknowledges the challenges facing coalition governments, even in a mandatory coalition; we need only look to the Republic of Ireland where it took 4 months to form a government between Fianna Fáil, Fianna Gael and the Green Party in 2020.

The table below provides an overview of recent changes to the process:

Following an election


Provisions of NI Act 1998


Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Act 2022


Formation of Executive

Unable to take place if First and deputy First Minister not appointed within seven days.

There can now be up to four, six-week periods for appointing Ministers, including the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, after an election (maximum period of 24 weeks).


Ministers remaining in post from previous mandate following failure to appoint First and deputy First Minister

Unable to take place.

Ministers can now remain in office after an election for up to a maximum of 24 weeks.


In effect, Ministers from the previous Executive can continue in their roles, unless they lose their seats, or are replaced by their party.


Whilst some faces may change within the Assembly, many of the issues they will need to respond to will carry over from the previous mandate. This presents an opportunity to engage with MLAs in the event of a longer negotiation period, briefing them on your issues and establishing the foundations of your political engagement strategy in a new mandate.

To speak to us about how we can support you with this, contact us on ideas@stratagem-ni.com.


*During any such six-week period, the Assembly can prevent the next six-week period from beginning by passing a resolution to that effect. Such a resolution will require cross community support.