There are concerns in Fermanagh South Tyrone that Sinn Fein planned their election since the last poll in May.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s vote increased 2.2% and 1.2% in the area while the DUP and UUP’s dropped 2.8% and 1.2%.
TUV candidate Alex Elliott said Arlene Foster’s vote held up strongly because of “the fear factor” of Sinn Fein.
“Sinn Fein have been planning this election for some time,” he said. “You can’t just get out that level of postal and proxy votes and support from foreign nationals that quickly, in the wake of Arlene’s crocodile comments.”
The reason Sinn Fein did not use the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) against the DUP last year, despite realising its flaws then, he said, may have been because republicans knew they too had close links to it and had to wait until the DUP were taking most of the blame to exploit it.
The SDLP’s Richie McPhillips said Mrs Foster had been “the best recruiting sergeant that Sinn Fein could have had”.
He added: “I would say Sinn Fein started working on this election strategy since the last election. They may not have thought an opportunity would have come so quickly, but then it arose in RHI.”
UUP MP Tom Elliott said Mrs Foster’s vote may have dropped slightly in a DUP bid to transfer support to Lord Morrow, which did happen.
She topped the poll but her personal vote dipped from 8,801 to 8,479 while Lord Morrow’s increased 6,602 to 7,102, though he was still eliminated.
Local sympathy held up Mrs Foster’s support, Mr Elliott said, with DUP voters possibly feeling that Sinn Fein gets off lightly for its wrongs.
He did not think Sinn Fein planned this election a year in advance, but they are “always in a state of readiness”.