In a few hours, Ireland’s election will come to an end. This campaign has been its own roller coaster; when the election was called, the governing Fine Gael, led by Leo Varadkar, was ahead in the polls, but then Fianna Fáil took the lead. Then, in just the last week, Sinn Féin took the lead as well even tough they’re standing in only 42 seats out of 160. Only the speaker is assured of reelection.
Ireland uses a system of single transferable vote (STV) from 39 constituencies, each returning between three and five TD’s. Voters complete a paper ballot, numbering candidates 1, 2, 3, etc. for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. preference.
The election has been thought on the issues of Brexit, housing, and the economy. The current FG Government, which has been in power since 2011, has run a very fiscally conservative campaign, while FF has gone on more of a spending-friendly campaign. Sinn Féin, an Irish nationalist party with historical ties to the IRA during the Troubles, has run a more left-wing approach. All agree that Ireland must maintain control over Brexit negations with the United Kingdom.
However, this is the first election where it looks like the traditional FG-FF domination of Irish politics is coming to the wayside. Both parties were founded as a result of how they viewed Ireland’s treaty with the UK during independence, with FF being anti-Treaty and FG being pro-Treaty. FF was the largest party from 1922 to 2011, only being being out of Government for a combined 15 years in that stretch. However, they where wiped out in 2011 and FG has governed since under both Enda Kenney and Leo Varadker. However, the rise of Sinn Féin and other parties has put this domination of the two at risk of coming to an end.
Most seat polls have Fianna Fáil being the largest party, with Fine Gael coming in second and Sinn Féin in third. However, other parties to watch are Labour, the historic allies of FG who are seeking to recover from a poor performance in 2016, and the Greens, who are polling well. The vast spread of Independent TD’s who may play a critical role in Government formation are also worth watching. The likely government formation may take weeks due to the odd nature of the results, and its possible that Ireland gets another minority government or a grand coalition of very unlikely or odd bedfellows.
The polls close at 5 PM EST and 10 PM GST. The Irish Times Exit poll will soon be released and will give the picture of where Ireland is moving towards.