It’s crunch time for the Liberal Democrats in the 2012 local elections today as they hope to avoid a repeat of last year’s disaster.
Labour, who are expected to take several seats from the Lib Dems, have also got several crucial battles on their hands in Crumpsall where council leader Sir Richard Leese is up for re-election.
Voter backlash over the Lib Dems’ partnership with the Conservatives saw them fail to win a single seat in 2011 leaving them with 21 seats.
They are contesting 11 seats this time around including a major showdown in the City Centre ward where Leader of the Opposition Marc Ramsbottom is up for re-election.
The 46-year-old faces competition from independent candidate Ken Dobson who dramatically resigned from the Lib Dems in 2010.
Cllr Ramsbottom, who has represented the city centre since 2000, will also be defending his seat against the Pirate Party’s Maria Aretoulaki, a former teacher.
The Pirate Party, formally registered in the UK in 2009, are seeking to turn anger against the Lib Dems and Labour into votes.
The group also have candidates standing in Ancoats and Clayton and Bradford and are campaigning for greater accountability in local government and greater representation for local residents.
This year’s elections could see minor parties and independent candidates pick up a large share of the votes as a result of public disillusion with the major parties.
The Green Party are expected to build on their 9081 votes last year and potentially take seats from the two dominant parties.
Green Candidate Ryan Bestford could take Gorton South from the incumbent Lib Dem Charles Glover, and the prospect of a major upset in Crumpsall could have Labour sweating.
On the right UKIP, who have been riding high in YouGov’s popularity poll, may see fears over Europe translate into a healthy share of votes.
UKIP’s Eugene Cassidy has a great opportunity to take Northenden from Lib Dem Martin Eakins.
The overall turnout in last year’s elections was 31.6%, and a similar low turnout could be good news for the minor parties.
Independent candidates bagged 809 votes last year and we predict 4 more tonight.
There are several students running for this year’s election, including in Fallowfield which has a traditionally high student population.
Most of these candidates know they have little chance of winning, but are noticing a shift to younger voters in this year’s election and hope to represent the younger generation.
Charles Bailey, who failed in a bid to become General Secretary in the recent Student Union elections, is running for the Conservatives.
Dominic Hardwick, a third year at the University of Manchester, is running for the Lib Dems in Hulme and East Didsbury sees physics student Jamie Williams running for the tories.
Despite predictions of a comfortable Labour win, a potential low turn-out and widespread resentment towards major parties adds an element of uncertainty to tonight’s elections.
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