FG And Labour Make Losses, FF And SF Make Gains, The Rest TBD

Despite the lingering pop-culture image of the radical “Irish rebel”, which was given a momentary fillip by the successful marriage equality referendum of 2015, when it comes to the country’s post-independence politics the broad swathe of the Irish people have invariably favoured a form of cautious conservatism, by which I mean a preference for the familiar and the traditional. In part that is simply down to the origins of the modern nation of Ireland and the manner in which the two post-civil war rivals-turned-parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, were integrated into the very institutions of the state itself. In reality the choice has always been a government of FF or of FG, perhaps with the Labour Party (or other minor players) as a prop to either one. However the general election of 2016 seems to have dealt a welcome blow to the two- or three-party monopoly, one that has arguably been inevitable since the 1980s. Despite some establishment journalists issuing warnings about the “fractured” nature of our politics we should see instead a political system made pluralist, one where a wide range of opinions and the expected divisions of Right and Left will be more accurately reflected in An Dáil. In other words, democracy.

RTÉ via Slugger O’Toole
RTÉ via Slugger O’Toole
Irish Times Ipsos MRBI via Slugger O’Toole
Irish Times Ipsos MRBI via Slugger O’Toole

So far it is very early in the counts, and it could be Monday before the transfer dust finally settles, especially in the bigger constituencies. If the exit polls and tallies are credible, then Fine Gael and Labour have taken a pummelling, the latter in particular loosing half or more of its seats. What the voter giveth, the voter can taketh away too. LP in particular is paying the price for its hubris and arrogance (though I’m sure Seanad Éireann will be only too happy to accept its Dáil rejects, should the party hold onto some scrap of power with FG. What other function does the upper house of the Oireachtas have but to provide incomes and pensions to political cronies and acolytes?).

Fianna Fáil has regained some of its lost ground, perhaps bringing it to near-parity with FG. However that is still a long distance away from where it once stood as the default party-of-government. In both cases, FF and FG have relied on a strong rural vote to buoy up their numbers. In contrast if urban polling had been reflected nationwide the two parties would be taking far less than 20% of first preference votes, respectively, and a coalition of the two would be more likely. Whatever the case it is remarkable that as of now the results show the civil war legacy parties with less than 50% of the popular vote for the first time since the 1920s.

Sinn Féin has inevitably fallen back from its highwater pre-election polling of 20%-25%, a percentage that could never be achieved this time around, but it seems likely to return to Dáil Éireann with at least twenty TDanna, a psychologically crucial figure to pass. There is no doubt that the party will be very pleased with the result, despite some right-leaning commentators bizarrely spinning it as a “disappointment”. The constituency “churn”, the allocation and reallocation of transfers, may benefit SF further yet, and the same can be said for the AAA-PBP, SocDems, Independents 4 Change and so on. The AAA-PBP may well emerge as the fifth largest party in An Dáil after a well-fought campaign. Renua seems to have faired so-so, though it may be surpassed in votes, if not TDanna, by the Green Party, a wholly inexplicable return from the electoral dead for that unreformed corpse.

My predictions for government? A coalition with Fine Gael in the lead and… Well, your guess is as good as mine.

Below is an extrapolation of seats based on the RTÉ-Behaviour & Attitudes exit poll:

Fine Gael 47

Independents and Others 42

Fianna Fáil 37

Sinn Féin 24

Labour Party 8

Below is an extrapolation of seats based on the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI exit poll:

Fine Gael 47

Independents and Others 42

Fianna Fáil 38

Sinn Féin 23

Labour Party 8

From Irish Polling Report, based on early tallies:

FG 49
FF 40-41
SF 27-28
LP 8-9
AAA 6
SD 3-4
GP 2
Re 0-1
OTH 20-21

This is just astonishing from the Guardian newspaper in the UK. A senior Fine Gael figure is suggesting that because the electorate did not vote the way the establishment parties wanted (i.e. for them) the electoral system needs a “review”:

“Mark Mortell, a Fine Gael strategist and Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s closest adviser, tells RTE that his party would end up with a similar number of sears to Fianna Fáil, but believes the prospects of another election are “very, very high”. “It won’t be easy for the two big parties to take the big step and come together,” he says.

He says Ireland will have to review its “political system” once the outcome of its most uncertain election in recent times is decided…”

How to spark a revolution!

 

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