The deadlines for nominations and to withdraw for the 2010 Westminster election have passed. At their close in Fermanagh and South Tyrone there was an independent, Rodney Connor, running in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the support of the DUP and UUP facing the Sinn Fein incumbent, Michelle Gildernew, and SDLP candidate Ferghal McKinney. In South Belfast, we have a pan-nationalist candidate, Alasdair McDonnell, with his main challenger Jimmy Spratt of the DUP and then the UUP's Paula Bradshaw. So the chance to make a deal has come and gone - or has it?
There is a precedent for an electoral pact agreed after nominations were closed. In 1918 the Irish Parliamentary Party and Sinn Fein agreed a pact in 8 constituencies were a Nationalist split would have resulted in a Unionist being elected. So in all 8 constituencies both parties remained on the ballot papers but voters asked to ignore one and vote for the other. For example, in East Donegal, it was agreed the IPP incumbent was to be the preferred candidate and nationalist voters abided by it with only 46 voting for the Sinn Fein candidate.