The contest for the devolved assembly in Belfast could see a pro-Irish nationalist party win for the first time in the British province’s troubled history.
The results, expected from Friday, could have huge constitutional implications for the future of the UK four, with predicted winners Sinn Fein locked in a vote on reunification with Ireland.
Voters elect councils in Scotland, Wales and across much of England, with Johnson facing a potentially crucial mid-term popularity test.
A poor result could reignite simmering discontent among his ruling conservatives over his leadership, following a string of recent scandals.
The Prime Minister voted in central London with his dog Dilyn, while Britain’s main opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer voted in the capital’s north with his wife, Victoria.
Johnson, 57, won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election on a promise to pull Britain out of the European Union and reverse endemic regional inequalities.
Although he delivered on his Brexit promise, the pandemic has largely stalled his domestic plans.
But his position has been in jeopardy due to anger over lockdown-breaking parties in his Downing Street office and the steep rise in the cost of living.
The polls, which close at 21:00 GMT, should also indicate whether Labor poses a serious threat, as it tries to make inroads across England despite defending the many gains it has made in recent years. 2018 local elections.
Labor is trying to move the Conservatives into second place in Scotland, behind the independence party Scottish National Party (SNP), and remain the largest party in Wales, where 16 and 17 year olds can vote for the first time .
‘Change of the Sea’
The contest for the power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland is set to draw attention, after numerous polls put Sinn Fein in the lead.
A University of Liverpool poll reported on Tuesday that he remained on course to win comfortably with more than a quarter of the vote.
The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Cross-Community Alliance Party tied for second place.
Deirdre Heenan, professor of social policy at the University of Ulster, said there was a feeling the election “is really momentous”.
“It will be a radical change if a nationalist becomes prime minister,” she told AFP.
Sinn Fein – the former political wing of the IRA – reduced its calls for Irish unity during the campaign, saying it was ‘not set’ on a date for a sovereignty poll, instead focusing about the rising cost of living and other local issues.
Party deputy chair Michelle O’Neill, who voted in County Tyrone, west Belfast, insisted voters were ‘looking ahead’ with pragmatism rather than levity dogmatism which has long been the hallmark of Northern Irish politics.
“They look a lot at those of us who can work together versus those who don’t want to work together,” she said.
In Belfast, council worker John Potts, 56, said a border poll was low on people’s priorities.
‘Let’s get Stormont (Northern Ireland Assembly) up and running, get wages, health, education and the pandemic sorted out and then we can discuss the constitution a bit,’ he told the AFP.
O’Neill’s DUP rivals have sought to keep the spotlight on possible Irish reunification in the hope of bolstering their faltering fortunes.
In February, its prime minister stepped down from the power-sharing government in protest at post-Brexit trade deals, causing it to collapse.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said after voting that his party would not form a new executive unless London tore up trade terms, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Words alone will not suffice,” he told reporters. “I will not enter an executive until this step has been taken.”
In England, the Tories are set to lose hundreds of councilors and even control of long-held strongholds in London to Labour.
Johnson has tried to put aside the so-called ‘partygate’ scandal which last month saw him become the first British prime minister to be fined for breaking the law while in office.
In Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon hopes a strong showing in the contests for all 32 local authorities can lay the groundwork for another independence referendum.
Johnson has repeatedly rejected pressure for a second poll, after Scots in 2014 voted 55% to 45% not to split.