DUBLIN – Sinn Fein has won Ireland’s national elections with a huge surge in votes which has broken the decades-long Fine Gael-Fianna Fail two-party system.
So far around three-quarters of seats have been allocated although vote counting of second preference votes of Saturday’s elections continued and could drag into Tuesday.
Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Sunday evening the results were “just the beginning.”
On Monday, 124 seats of the 160 seat parliament known as the Dail Eireann had been allocated.
Sinn Fein has taken 37 seats, Fine Gael – lead by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar – has taken 24 and Fianna Fail – headed by Micheal Martin – has 27.
The first preference recount confirmed a 62.9 percent turnout with a vote distribution of 24 percent to Sinn Fein, 22 percent to FF, 21 percent to FG, seven percent to the Green party and four percent to Labour.
It will be the second preference recount that will determine the exact number of seats each faction will end up with.
The single transferable vote system of proportional representation, or PR-STV, favors FG and FF over Sinn Fein, which put forward fewer candidates than the other parties.
The PR-STV and is one of the most complex electoral systems in the world, something that slows down vote counting and hinders absolute majorities.
It means voters can back a candidate or party, even if their chances of election are slim, and then using their preferences to ensure that their vote moves on to a candidate with much higher chances of getting a parliamentary seat.
Since the 1920s a two-party system has been the norm with centrist suit FF and democrats FG sharing power with the support of minority parties.
This election could break the duopoly FF and FG held for so long or plunge Ireland into a political deadlock.
Analysts have predicted Martin’s FF could obtain 41 seats, FG 39 and Sinn Fein 36, which would place all three parties far from a governing majority.
Deals or a coalition government seem unavoidable.
Both Martin and Varadkar have said they would refuse to strike a deal with Sinn Fein owing to the party’s violent past, it was historically associated with the IRA terror group, and left-wing economic policies, which have been branded populist and radical.
McDonald has started talks with minority party leaders to explore government options.
The nationalist leader is keen to foster a progressive government although she has not ruled out a colation with Martin’s centrists or Varadkar’s Christian democrats.