Northern Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots has retained a seat in the Assembly, following the election last week and the counting of votes over the weekend.

Minister Poots, a member and former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), stood for election in the Belfast South constituency.

He was elected on the fifth count, and was the second candidate in the constituency to secure a seat (after Sinn Féin's Deirdre Hegarty, who was elected on the first count).

After the fifth count, Minister Poots finished up with 8,475 votes, surpassing the quota of 7,824 (similar to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland Assembly elections use the proportional representation system of voting, as opposed to elections for the House of Commons, which use the 'first past the post' system).

As a consequence of legislation passed by the UK government earlier this year, Minister Poots retains the position of agriculture minister for a period of six months or until the political parties in Northern Ireland agree the formal make up of a new executive.

Following the election, Sinn Féin has secured the most seats of any party, with 27, overtaking the DUPs seat haul for the first time in the Assembly's history (the latter party have secured 25 of the 90 available seats).

The work will now begin on forming a new executive. However, unionist representatives have suggested that they will not nominate somebody for the positions of First Minister or Deputy First Minister unless the Northern Ireland Protocol is scrapped.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the role of First Minister is filled by an MLA from the party with the most number of seats. The role of Deputy First Minister is then filled by an MLA from the largest party in the community (either unionist or nationalist) that does not fill the role of First Minister.

The two offices are in fact co-equal and have the same responsibilities, and thus neither role can be filled while the other remains vacant.