Voting in the 2021 Welsh Parliament election has closed with people having to wait until Friday to find out which party is in pole position to form the next government.
Polls opened at 7am on Thursday and closed at 10pm in the first election since the legislature was renamed from the National Assembly of Wales, and the first to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
The results will be seen as a reflection of how the Welsh public have rated First Minister Mark Drakeford and his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Mr Drakeford calling for a radical redrawing of the UK and Adam Price’s Plaid Cymru wanting independence, the make-up of the next Welsh Government could also determine the future of Wales’s place in the union.
Following the closing of the polls, Mr Drakeford said: “The votes of the people of Wales have been cast.
“On behalf of Welsh Labour, I thank everyone who has voted for us, and all those who have participated in these elections – particularly the 16 and 17 year olds who have exercised their new right to vote for the first time.
“In the coming days, the political make-up of the next Senedd will become clear. We await those results.
“My party and I enter the next few days in the same spirit we have approached this campaign – ready to serve, ready to lead a jobs-first recovery, and ready to move Wales forward.”
Welsh Conservatives Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said: “It’s been an unconventional campaign, but one that’s been fought in good spirit by political parties. Thank you to the many officials across the country who’ve allowed this election to take place in a safe and efficient manner.
“The results of today’s election could take a while to become clear, but our message remains the same, protecting jobs and kick-starting Wales’s economy has to be the priority.”
Changes to ensure social distancing at count venues means the counting process is not taking place soon after polls close as in previous elections, with it instead expected to begin across Wales from 9am on Friday with results starting to come in from the afternoon.
Plan have been made by returning officers to adjourn the process until Saturday morning if it is believed staff will not be able to finish counting ballots by Friday evening.
It means the final make-up of the next Senedd may not be confirmed until the weekend if results in some constituencies are close and recounts are called.
No party has ever won an outright majority in Wales, meaning the party which has won the most seats will be expected to enter into talks with other parties or independent members in order to form the next Welsh Government.
Members of the new Senedd will meet next week to elect a new presiding officer.