Ireland’s election has produced a parliament full of feuding factions and no obvious road to a majority government, spurring lawmakers to warn Sunday that the country could face a protracted political deadlock followed by a second election. For the first time in Irish electoral history, the combined popular vote Friday for Ireland’s two political heavyweights – the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties – fell below 50 per cent as voters infuriated by austerity measures shifted their support to a Babel of anti-government voices. The results left parliament with at least nine factions and a legion of loose-cannon independents, few of them easy partners for a coalition government, none of them numerous enough to make a difference on their own.
“There’s a sense of bewilderment, first of all. We’re a long way from sitting down together and talking about what our next options are,” said Regina Doherty, a Fine Gael lawmaker for Meath, northwest of Dublin.
With 12 seats in Ireland’s 158-member parliament still to be filled, the ruling Fine Gael won 46 seats, longtime foe Fianna Fail 42, the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein 22 and junior government partner Labour just six. An eye-popping array of tiny parties, umbrella groups and parochial mavericks won the rest.
Leading members of Fianna Fail – which rebounded in this vote just five years after facing electoral ruin for nearly bankrupting the country – said they would find it extremely hard to forge any coalition that keeps Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael in power.