Political gridlock looms for Ireland after Sinn Fein surge
DUBLIN: Ireland began counting votes on Sunday in a national election that an exit poll indicated would show a historic breakthrough for left-wing nationalists Sinn Fein but leave a fractured political landscape with no clear path to a governing coalition.
In a major realignment, Sinn Fein support surged 50% to bring it into joint first place on 22% with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two center-right parties that have dominated Irish politics for a century, according to the poll released on Saturday evening after voting ended.
But Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army which has reinvented itself as the country’s main left-wing party, is likely to fall behind the other two because it fielded fewer candidates for parliament.
Early counting appeared to back up the exit poll findings.
“I think it’s the most extraordinary exit poll in the history of state and the most extraordinary election in the history of the state … because of the rise of Sinn Fein,” said Gary Murphy, Professor of Politics at Dublin City University.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael and rival Fianna Fail are likely to be left slugging it out for first place in terms of seats – before starting what is set to be a tortuous process of forming a government in the 160-seat parliament. – AFP