A guide to the election history of Wales’ Senedd

Rhodri Morgan speaking at the Senedd in 2009 (Barry Batchelor/PA)
Rhodri Morgan speaking at the Senedd in 2009 (Barry Batchelor/PA) (PA Archive)
14:06pm, Wed 05 May 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

The 2021 Welsh Parliament election is the first to be held since Wales’ legislature changed its name from the National Assembly of Wales and the first to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

It is 22 years since devolution began to see law-making and taxation powers moved from Westminster to Cardiff Bay, with responsibilities for health, education, economic development, transport, the environment, agriculture and local government now resting in Wales.

Welsh Labour has dominated Wales’ governance and has consistently won the most seats across all five previous elections.

the Welsh Assembly (PA Archive)

But the party has never won an outright majority and has needed support from independent members, Plaid Cymru, and the Liberal Democrats in order to form governments.

The most recent administration was Labour-led but supported by Lib Dem Kirsty Williams and independent Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who are both standing down from the Senedd.

The National Assembly for Wales was opened in 1999 following the result of a referendum in 1997 which won with just 50.3% of the vote.

Alun Michael became its first leader as Assembly First Secretary in May 1999 after being backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, but he lasted just 273 days at the helm of a minority Welsh Labour government.

Cardiff/Blair & Michael (PA Archive)

He resigned and was was replaced as Welsh Labour leader Rhodri Morgan who, in October 2000, formed a coalition with the Lib Dems and assumed the title of First Minister.

Mr Morgan formed a minority government following the 2003 election which later saw the transfer of limited law-making powers to Wales through the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Following the 2007 election, Mr Morgan initially formed another minority government after talks with other parties collapsed.

But he eventually formed a Labour and Plaid Cymru coalition two months later in July 2007, which also saw Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones become Deputy First Minister.

Wales plans new assembly referendum (PA Archive)

Mr Morgan, Wales’ longest-serving First Minister, stepped down in December 2009 and handed over to Carwyn Jones who continued to lead the coalition until the 2011 election.

Welsh Labour again won the most seats and Mr Jones formed his own minority government, which was the first to govern since the 2011 referendum on direct law-making powers for Wales’ legislature.

The 2016 election saw a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition, with Lib Dem Kirsty Williams joining the government as well as Dafydd Elis-Thomas who had left Plaid Cymru and became an independent member to hand Labour a ruling majority.

Labour Party Conference – Day Two (PA Archive)

Mr Jones stepped down on December 11 2018 and was replaced as Welsh Labour leader by Mark Drakeford, who became the latest First Minister the next day after receiving 30 votes from then-assembly members against 12 for Welsh Tories leader Paul Davies and nine for Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

Following the parliament’s May 2020 name change, its 60 members were also renamed Members of the Senedd (MSs) as opposed to Assembly Members (AMs).

The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act also lowered the voting age to 16 for Senedd elections, extended the right to vote to eligible foreign nationals, and changed the law so that most disqualifications prohibit a person from taking up a seat in the Senedd though they can still stand for election.

Sign up to our newsletter