NEXT year's Welsh Parliament election could be delayed by six months if necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said providing the Senedd’s presiding officer with the power to move back the poll from May 6 represented “a major constitutional step”, but only to be used as a “last resort”.

The election will be the first for Wales’ parliament in which 16 year olds are allowed to vote.


On Tuesday, the Welsh Labour leader told MSs at the Senedd a draft bill to enable the delay was being prepared to mirror one introduced in the Scottish Parliament the previous day.

Mr Drakeford said: “We are focused on enabling the election to happen as planned, but it would be irresponsible of us not to make plans in case the pandemic is so serious in May next year where it wouldn’t be safe to hold an election.”

Mr Drakeford said legislation would be brought forward to the Senedd in January “if the situation after Christmas suggests that we will need to do this as a final resort”.

Safeguarding measures would include requirement for the presiding officer to receive the most recent public health advice as well as a confirmatory supermajority vote of two thirds of MSs before the power could be used.

Other provisions being considered to help protect the public would include encouraging vulnerable people to consider using postal votes, and more flexibility in terms of voting by proxy, Mr Drakeford said.

Early voting centres were also being considered to allow people to vote in civic buildings in the days before the election in order to reduce queueing at polling stations.

Mr Drakeford added: “I’d like to emphasise that we are determined to do everything that we can to ensure that people can vote when the election is held.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Paul Davies, said there was “no reason why the elections can’t take place on May 6”.

He said: “Spain, Poland, France and South Korea held some elections safely during this pandemic. In some of these areas that have held elections virus transmissions did not go up.

“But of course I accept here in Wales we need to put measures in place to ensure these elections are safe and secure.”

Mr Davies also said while he welcomed some flexibility around voting, it was essential that “checks and balances” were put in place to voters had confidence in postal and proxy voting.

He also asked that Mr Drakeford address “valid concerns” about the security of storing ballot boxes and who would be allowed to observe their transfer from one location to another.