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Ireland elects center-right government

Irish voters overwhelmingly reject Fianna Fail government, blaming it for financial collapse.

Many analysts believe that with more harsh budgets on the way, Labour will provide a counter to the conservatives policies of Fine Gael. Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have their roots in the Irish Civil War of 1922-23 and have contested elections on similar social and economic platorms, based on a mixture of populism and open market economic principles.

The days when one of the two parties always formed a government may be gone for good after this election.

Kenny, who represents Mayo in the Dail, has promised to go to Brussels to renegotiate the harsh terms of the IMF-ECB bailout, which include large cuts in disposable incomes and pubic services. His ability to do so was enhanced — at least in voters’ eyes — when he held a high-profile meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Feb. 11 to discuss EU help for the Irish economy.

Kenny and Merkel are friends as both Fine Gael and Merkel’s CDU party are members of the center-right European People’s Party in the European Parliament.

With the hand-counting of paper ballots, it could take days before all surplus votes are transferred and all seats are decided but already by Saturday evening it was clear that Sinn Fein and independents are poised to play a significant role in opposition in the new parliament.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who resigned his Belfast seat in the British House of Commons to cross the border and stand in County Louth, topped the poll and helped double Sinn Fein’s representation from five to an expected 10 seats.

Sinn Fein has transformed itself in the last 25 years from the political wing of the IRA to a voice for the under-privileged in society, and is the only party, other than the miniscule Green Party, which contests elections in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. Gerry Adams’s colleague, Martin McGuinness, is the deputy first minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Green Party was severely punished by the electorate for its role in coalition with Fianna Fail, and is expected to lose all of its six seats in the outgoing Dail.
Independents did exceptionally well in the Irish poll, taking up to 15 percent of first preference votes.

Independent candidate Shane Ross, who has made a name highlighting the cronyism among politicians, bankers and property developers that caused the financial crash, topped the poll in Dublin South.