Ballots are being counted to determine the balance of power in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the foundation for a Protestant-Catholic administration that has governed the British territory in relative harmony for the past nine years.

Calculating results from Thursday's election could run into Saturday because Northern Ireland's complex system of proportional representation requires several rounds of counting.

All opinion polls suggest that the two dominant rivals — the British Protestants of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Irish Catholics of Sinn Fein — will reinforce their joint hold on power. Few analysts expect Sinn Fein to overtake the Democratic Unionists and gain the top power-sharing post for the first time.

First Minister Arlene Foster's Democratic Unionists held 38 seats in the last 108-member assembly, Sinn Fein 29.