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The Irish election is now only a couple of days away and the outcome still looks uncertain. It’s likely that the post-election negotiations could be tricky. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel explains.
24 February 2016
The Irish election is set for 26 February and the outcome looks uncertain, yet there has so far been little attention paid. As the poll of polls below suggests, the incumbent Fine Gael party will once again be the largest party albeit likely with a smaller share of the vote. However, a repeat of its current coalition with the Labour Party looks unlikely to be enough to deliver a majority. Labour has seen its vote share decline significantly and even if it surprises in the election the two together are unlikely to reach the majority of 84 seats. This leaves a few potential post-election scenarios:
So far the betting markets have a grand coalition as the most likely outcome, though its not clear if they take account of the first option described above. In any case, the negotiations could well prove tricky. With the rise of Sinn Fein and the spread of more populist parties across Europe, to which countless mainstream parties have fallen prey, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will be particularly careful about their post-election moves.
It is also worth noting that according to Michael Marsh, Emeritus Professor of politics at Trinity College Dublin, around 25% to 30% of the electorate were undecided well into the campaign, meaning the result is incredibly uncertain.
One reason why there may have been little attention paid is that, despite the uncertainty, the outcome is unlikely to mark a huge shift in policy. The path the current government has trodden has proven difficult but ultimately is seen to have delivered results. Add in the fact that economic policy, even post bailout, is still watched closely by Brussels, and the exposure to market forces as Ireland returns to the markets, and there are unlikely to be any huge shifts.
Of course one wildcard in all this is the potential for Brexit. As we have noted before, this would have a significant impact on Ireland. It has not played much of a role in the campaign. However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has touched on this risk to indirectly highlight his established credentials in steering Ireland through turbulent times, though he has chosen his words carefully and not overplayed this card given the sensitivity of the issue.