As the results are tallied from Ireland’s General Election, early indications suggest that Fine Gael and Labour will suffer significant losses while Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, and independents will make considerable gains. Some major figures in Irish politics are fighting for their political lives.
It would appear that the campaign run by the government coalition, which consists of Fine Gael and Labour, did not resonate with the Irish electorate. The performance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny will come under scrutiny in the coming days as his lackluster campaign came back to haunt him.
An angry Irish electorate failed to support a government which took draconian measures to stop the economic collapse but forced up unemployment, emigration and raised taxes to balance the budget. They also borrowed heavily.
Kenny appeared frustrated at the end after being questioned on his party’s assessment that Ireland was on the road to economic recovery during the campaign, when he described some voters as "All-Ireland whingers.”
The major beneficiaries of the swing in support look to be Fianna Fail, whose leader Michael Martin performed well in the debates in the run up to Friday’s election.
According to some reports, Kenny is feeling “deep disappointment” over the results.
“The only word I can use right now is deep disappointment,” Mark Mortell, Kenny’s advisor told Irish radio station Newstalk this morning, according to the Irish Independent.
“[Enda Kenny] fought an extraordinarily hard campaign, having had five very hard years as Taoiseach in the toughest of times. This is obviously really, really disappointing but you’ve got to take what the people say and live with the consequences."
It appears Kenny has good reason to be downcast, as exit polls show that his party will lose a significant number of seats.
Fine Gael went into the election with 36 percent of the seats in the Dail, and it looks like they will drop to 26 percent after the count is finished. Fianna Fail looks set to win 23 percent of the vote, a strong comeback for a party that was left in tatters after the 2011 election.
Labour, who were coalition partners with Fine Gael for five years, look set to fall from 19 percent to 7 percent. Sinn Fein will become the the third largest party for the first time with an estimated 15 percent of the vote, a five percent increase from the last election.
Before the election, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin ruled out any chance of forming a government with Fine Gael saying “It’s not a consideration.”
Once all the votes have been counted the tricky business of forming a new government will begin.
The Dail meets on March 10th, but it is clear there is no viable or majority support for a new Taoiseach. A caretaker government likely led by Kenny will rule until a governing coalition with a Dail majority is found. In the past, that has taken weeks, even 82 days on one occasion.