Irish voters set to oust Enda Kenny’s govt

Enda Kenny

Ireland looked set to kick Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s coalition government out of office in an election on Friday with no clear alternative in sight, an exit poll indicated, threatening to plunge the country into a period of political instability.

Ireland’s uneven recovery was the focus in the election in which voters punished the government for years of austerity despite warnings that political instability might damage a nascent recovery.

Kenny’s Fine Gael will win the election on 26.1 percent, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll said. With partners Labour in line for 7.8 percent of the ballot, they would fall well short of the 41-42 percent they identified as needed for re-election.

Such an outcome would leave an unprecedented and potentially unstable alliance between historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which the exit poll put at 22.9 percent, as potentially the only viable way to break the deadlock.

One Fine Gael junior minister said he would “of course” be open to the prospect minutes after the exit poll was released, the first senior member of either party to say so.

“We have to have a government and every option will have to be looked at. The only option I would have a problem with is Sinn Fein,” Michael Ring told the Newstalk radio station, referring to left-wing party which polled at 14.9 percent.

Ring said that if the exit poll proved accurate, it would be a very disappointing and difficult result for Fine Gael which won 36 percent of the vote in 2011 and came into the campaign above 30 percent in most polls.

Framed as a debate over how to distribute the profits of an economic growth surge since the country took a sovereign bailout in 2010, Kenny’s campaign to “keep the recovery going” fell flat among many yet to feel any impact after years of austerity.