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Author: Dewi Knight

99Rewind: Party politics like it's 1999

Updated Monday, 4th April 2011

As the people of Wales prepared for three big elections in 2011, we turned back time to the first Welsh General Election

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2011 is a bonus year if you live in Wales and love elections, or if you live elsewhere and enjoy a touch of election-spotting!

After the National Assembly powers referendum in March, Wales will vote twice on May 5th. As with all parts of the United Kingdom, voters in Wales will take part in the AV referendum, but will also elect members of the National Assembly for Wales in the Welsh General Election.

In the space of 8 weeks, the people of Wales will have 3 big votes. And this year’s Welsh General Election will also achieve many firsts.

It’s the first Welsh election within the context of a UK coalition government, and the first time in the devolution era that Labour has not been in power at Westminster.

It’s the first time that Plaid Cymru – the Welsh nationalist party – has a record in government to defend, having been in coalition with Labour in the Welsh Government since 2007.

Temporary polling station
A temporary polling station arrives in Newport prior to the March referendum vote

It’s the first Welsh General election following the successful Welsh referendum on the National Assembly’s law-making capabilities, which means that the Assembly and Welsh Government can now pass laws without first seeking legislative competence from the UK Parliament.

It’s also the first Welsh General Election where none of the party leaders from the very first in 1999 are still in charge of their parties.

With so many firsts in 2011, The Open University has decided to turn the clock back to that very first Welsh General Election. We’ll reflecting where the 2011 echoes 1999 and teasing out the differences. We’ll be running 99Rewind on Twitter and featuring blogs and other content from academics and key figures from Welsh politics on OpenLearn.

The Welsh General Election is the all-Wales election to the National Assembly for Wales. 60 Assembly Members are elected from 40 constituencies and 5 regions, winning the right to sit in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

The National Assembly for Wales is the democratically elected body that makes laws and scrutinises the Welsh Government, in much the same way as the UK Parliament or Scottish Parliament holds the UK Government or Scottish Government to account.

The National Assembly was established following a referendum in 1997, which was a manifesto commitment of the Labour UK Government, and the first elections took place in 1999. The 2011 elections will be the fourth ever Welsh General Election.

The Welsh Government proposes policy and laws in devolved areas of responsibility such as education, health and transport, which are scrutinised by the National Assembly. Areas such as social security, defence and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the UK Government and Parliament.

99Rewind will give you the chance to compare what happened in the first ever Welsh General Election campaign and what’s going on in this election year of firsts.

Will Labour bounce back from a recent UK election defeat, are there parallels with the Conservatives performance in Wales after the 1997 election? With the opinion polls on the recent referendum getting it almost spot-on, what did the polls in 1999 predict and how close did they get to the result? How different were the policy ambitions and campaigns for a new government compared to an election after 12 years of devolution?

To sign up to daily tweets start following and look out for tweets preceded with #OU_99walesrwd.

Enjoy the campaign and the experience of rewinding to 1999!


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