Wales Election 2016

Assembly election seats to watch: Llanelli

Llanelli Town Centre Image copyright Geograph/Hywel Williams

In the first of a series of articles on key assembly battleground seats, BBC Wales news online's David Deans looks at the West Wales seat of Llanelli.

Much of the focus in the run up to the election has been on seats where the Tories are nipping at the heels of Labour - like in north east Wales and places like Wrexham and Cardiff North.

But the seat where Plaid Cymru are closest to removing Labour is Llanelli - this is the only constituency to have changed hands at every assembly election.

In fact Llanelli was won by Labour with a razor-thin majority of just 80 last time around. Plaid Cymru won in 1999, with Labour winning by 21 votes in 2003. The seat reverted to Plaid again in 2007.

But in 2011 Labour's Keith Davies came out on top, beating Plaid's Helen Mary Jones . Ms Jones is standing again - her fifth time on the ballot paper.

Who is in the running?

Ms Jones is running again as the Plaid candidate, but this time her challenger is Lee Waters.

A former ITV political journalist, Mr Waters is currently best known in Cardiff Bay circles as the outspoken director of the Institute of Wales Affairs think tank.

His selection was an interesting pick, given Mr Waters has been known to be publicly critical of the Welsh Government in the past.

Ms Jones has previously held the seat of Llanelli from 1999 to 2003, before becoming AM for Mid and West Wales from 2003 to 2007, and returning to Llanelli in 2007.

After Ms Jones lost her seat, she went on to be chief executive of Youth Cymru.

The race has been made even more uncertain thanks to the presence of former Plaid Cymru councillor, Sian Caiach of People First.

Ms Caiach, who is currently an independent Carmarthenshire councillor for Hengoed, polled 2,000 votes at the last assembly election.

Professor Roger Scully of the Wales Governance Centre said Llanelli, in terms of the overall election outcome on 6 May "might not actually be that important".

"If Plaid win Llanelli they might just lose a consequential Mid and West Wales list seat," he said.

But he said Plaid would "really want" to recapture the marginal. On the other hand, Labour holding Llanelli might be seen by the party "as part of a general attempt to start fighting back in the west of Wales," he said.

Image caption Llanelli constituency

Another factor is what impact UKIP candidate Kenneth Rees may have. Prof Scully said the party did "surprisingly well" in the seat at the general election.

He said: "The candidate is fairly well known locally. It's the same candidate as at the general election. Some people felt his presence [then] probably hurt Plaid more than Labour."

Other candidates in the seat are:

  • Welsh Liberal Democrats, Gemma-Jane Bowker
  • Welsh Conservative, Stefan Ryszewski
  • Wales Green Party, Guy Smith

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