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Historic breakthrough of Sinn Fein in the legislative elections in Ireland

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s party, Fine Gael, was the big loser in this Sunday, February 9, election. He comes third.

A setback for the party of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael, which comes in the third position. The Republican Party Sinn Fein, long regarded as the political branch of the IRA, achieved a historic breakthrough in the legislative elections in Ireland, upsetting the two centrist parties that usually share power.

After the first round of counting started on Sunday, the day after the elections, Sinn Fein was placed at the top of the list by 24.5% of the voters, ahead of the two big center-right parties, the Fianna Fail with 22, 2% and the Fine Gael of the outgoing Prime Minister with 20.9%.

“It’s official @sinnfeinireland won the election” welcomed on Twitter Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of this left-wing party which campaigns for the reunification of the British province of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

It now remains to be seen how electoral arithmetic will distribute the 160 seats of deputies in the Dail, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. Due to the complex voting system, its composition will only be known after the total count, which can take several days.

Voters do not vote for an established list but build their own list by ranking the candidates in order of preference.

The Fianna Fail remains the party best placed to win the most seats in the lower house of the Irish Parliament because Sinn Fein presented only 42 candidates, about half as much as the two big centrist parties. The big loser of the three is the Prime Minister’s Fine Gael, who is expected to lose several seats.

Leo Varadkar losing popularity
Young (41), mixed race, homosexual, embodying an Ireland that was once very Catholic and modernizing, Leo Varadkar saw his popularity diminish after almost three years in power.

A week after the UK left the European Union, it focused its campaign on the subject of Brexit, with Ireland and its 4.9 million inhabitants on the front line.

Leo Varadkar highlighted his role in developing a solution to avoid the return to a physical border between the two Ireland. But his strategy did not pay off, with voters more interested in housing or health.

What alliances?
Sinn Fein is now looking to form alliances in the hope of forming a coalition government. “I want us to have a government for the people,” said Sinn Fein chief Mary Lou McDonald on Sunday.

“Ideally,” this government would have neither of the two centrist parties, said McDonald, who contacted small parties like the Greens and the Social Democrats.

The position of the leaders of the big centrist parties of “not talking with us” is “unsustainable,” she also told reporters on Sunday in Dublin’s main counting center, on the outskirts of the capital.

Both the Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael had so far ruled out forming a coalition with Sinn Fein, because of its links with the IRA, a paramilitary organization opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland, whose party was the political showcase.

A vote “for change”
Leo Varadkar reaffirmed his position, but Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin seemed to soften his. While stressing that there was a political “incompatibility” on certain subjects with Sinn Fein, he refused before the press to repeat his opposition to an alliance.

Both were re-elected on Sunday, but not in the first round of counting, unlike Mary Lou McDonald. For her, the Irish voted “for change”. “What is extraordinary is that it seems that the political establishment, and by that, I mean Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, are in a state of denial,” she said.

Negotiations to form a coalition government could take weeks or even months. After the last election in 2016, it took more than two months for a government to be formed.

By Le Parisien with AFP

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