More candidates for the 2018 Irish Presidential election are needed to ensure the power of the ballot box is understood. 

The news that Sinn Féin is fielding a candidate in the Irish presidential election in November is good news for democracy.

Michael D. Higgins has done a stellar job in the position, but the presidency is an elective job which needs to be contested.

A slew of minor candidates have put their name forward, and now Sinn Féin has said they will run a candidate as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael refuse to get involved.

Democracy is the loser in that respect. The two largest parties should have candidates ready to run given the significance of the position.

Either you are a political party or you are not. There can be no halfway house.  

Read more: Sinn Féin have entered race for Irish president, ensuring contest for Michael D Higgins

John Finucane a 'strong contender to be Sinn Féin's presidential candidate' https://t.co/cPSL6KcWbK pic.twitter.com/mKZwdIP7wF

— The Irish News (@irish_news) July 17, 2018

In this case, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have abdicated their responsibilities in a very public way, and not for the first time. Fianna Fáil did not run a candidate in the last presidential election.

Make no mistake about it, Higgins looks unbeatable and perhaps he is. But elections are funny things.

Higgins himself looked totally beaten until the front-runner imploded over the final weekend seven years ago. And ask the U.S. over the Donald Trump election or the British vote over Brexit.

In Trump’s case, the vast majority had believed the race was over. The New York Times had readied a front page lead that read simply “Madam President.” Someone forgot to tell the voters who shot down the Clinton celebration in double quick time.

Read more: Irish presidential candidate calls for sharp cuts in immigration to Ireland

The Brexit vote was similar in terms of its shock value. People went to bed assured that the anti-Brexit forces had prevailed.

They woke up to a world changed utterly. There is still chaos and confusion two years later.

Likewise, in a congressional election in Queens last month, the overwhelming favorite was a dear friend of the Irish, Congressman Joe  Crowley.

Taking a look at the age distribution in #NY14 Democratic primary, where @Ocasio2018 upset @repjoecrowley.

Notable: you don't often seen the under-40 vote rival that of the over-60 vote in a midterm primary. pic.twitter.com/URSP5Nk9OC

— Matt Hodges (@hodgesmr) July 17, 2018

Ten times elected unanimously, a likely future speaker of the House, running against a 28-year-old nobody, it seemed hardly worth going through the exercise.

The rank outsider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated the gallant Crowley in one of the biggest upsets in New York election history. It was a hammer blow for Crowley, who must have pondered the unpredictability of political candidates given that a poll showed him 35 points ahead three weeks before the contest.

Given all these examples, there is surely merit in holding a competitive Irish presidential election.  Higgins has served the country proudly, especially during his state visit to Britain and Queen Elizabeth’s follow up state visit to Ireland.

Read more: Irish president Michael D. Higgins to seek re-election

It is at times like that you realize the benefit of an intellectual, highly engaged president with a clear vision of what the job entails.

There are arguments against, though. Higgins is 77 and would be 84 at the completion of a second term.

Arguably, one seven-year term is enough to accomplish what you seek, some will say. That is a debate that the other candidates can facilitate.

We have seen the running down of democracy in the last presidential election in the U.S. It seems the very notion of democratic freedoms is being undermined, starting at the very top in America.

A contested Irish presidential election sends its own message that the ballot box is incredibly important, especially in this day and age where it seems under more threat than ever worldwide.

Do you think that more candidates are needed or is Michael D. Higgins too certain to win? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below. 

Sabina Higgins and Michael D. Higgins casting a vote. RollingNews.ie