Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the Irish general election 2020 for Saturday, February 8.
The Irish leader traveled to Áras an Uachtaráin on Tuesday afternoon to ask President Michael D. Higgins to dissolve the Dáil (Irish parliament) which will remain closed over the course of the three-week campaign before the public head to the polls.
This is the first time that a general election will take place on a Saturday, something the Taoiseach claimed he hoped would help parents, students and those living away from home. He also described the February 8 date as a "window of opportunity" before the next European Council meeting in March.
Here is my speech from the steps of Government Buildings today.
Now is the right time for an election, so we can have a new Government in place for the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, which are going to be just as tough as the last.#LookForward pic.twitter.com/HXEJG9IdD5— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) January 14, 2020
"We have a deal on Brexit and Northern Ireland. Our economy has never been stronger; there are more people in work than ever before, incomes are rising, poverty is falling and the public finances are back in order," Varadkar said on Tuesday as he announced the election date.
"As a nation, we have every reason to be hopeful and positive about the future."
The date has been criticized by some, however, as it comes a week before the new electoral register becomes valid on February 15, excluding many young voters who would have been able to cast their ballot for the first time and those who registered to vote in the past eight months.
Once again, disgraceful.
8-days (6 working days) to source and fill-out and 6-page document. Then get it stamped at your local Garda station, and submitted to your local authority.
Why could the Government not wait one week?January 14, 2020
Right now, the only way that people who've "registered" in the past year can guarantee that they're on the register for #GE2020 is to sign the supplemental register. They have nine days before the deadline.— Carl Kinsella (@TVsCarlKinsella) January 14, 2020
While the election date was speculated for some time, the short campaign began with fury on Tuesday with candidates making the most of the three-week period they have to canvas voters, in what is set to be an extremely close election.
Fine Gael currently leads a minority coalition government supported by independent members and backed by main opposition party Fianna Fáil who made a formal agreement to abstain on matters of confidence and supply.
Early opinion polls show Varadkar's Fine Gael to be slightly ahead although local elections last week suggest Fianna Fáil are making some headway.
Here is how the main Irish political parties started out their campaigns:
#GE2020 is on!
Sinn Féin want to give workers & families a break, deliver for local communities & stand up for ordinary people
For the biggest public house-building programme in the history of the State, for solutions to the health crisis, for Irish Unity: Vótáil Sinn Féin #1?? pic.twitter.com/wNxpxymPqr— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) January 14, 2020
Fianna Fáil's #ge20 slogan is 'An Ireland For All'.
Same as in 2016.— Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) January 14, 2020
We’ve made some good progress since I’ve become Taoiseach. But I know it’s not enough, and we want to do much more. @FineGael has the team, the track record and the plans to build a future we can all look forward to.#LookForward pic.twitter.com/Tox3EBxHVm— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) January 14, 2020
"What are the choices, in this next decade, as to where we want to go as a country? That’s what this election has to be about."January 12, 2020
Who do you think will come out on top in general election 2020? Let us know in the comments section, below.