Politicians issued their final appeals for support Thursday on the eve of Ireland’s election, a contest that could produce a hung parliament and political instability in Europe’s main success story for austerity. Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton shared a pot of tea at a Dublin restaurant as they asked voters to keep their 5-year-old coalition government intact. Polls consistently suggest they’ll lose their majority position in parliament and will need more allies to remain in office. Kenny and Burton have struggled during the past three weeks of door-to-door campaigning to win credit for Ireland’s unexpectedly rapid rebound from a 2010 international bailout, the crisis that brought them to power five years ago.
Unemployment in Ireland has fallen to a seven-year low of 8.9 percent amid the country’s return to Europe-leading growth. But many voters say they’ve yet to feel relief following years of soul-sapping cuts and tax hikes, including unpopular new charges on property and water.
“We’ve come through some calamitous and troubling times. We’ve restored our sovereignty, our credibility, our integrity. We’ve come a long way in the right direction but we need to finish the job,” Kenny said.
Analysts said ballots from Friday’s vote could take all weekend to count, with the full picture of Ireland’s 158-seat Dail Eireann not known until Monday.