Fianna Fail, the party of current Prime Minister Berie Ahern, has retained its plurality of seats in Ireland’s general elections, with 78 out of the total of 166. That is a decline of three seats from 2002. Coalition partner, Progressive Democrats, won 2 seats, down from 8 (and its leader was defeated). Thus the incumbent government was not reelected.
The main potential alternative coalition would be Fine Gael (51, +20 from 2002!), Labour (20, no change), and Green (6, no change). Obviously, even though Fine Gael is the big gainer here, their coalition is likewise short of a majority.
The Irish Times notes that the Greens could offer support for Ahern. Greens leader, Trevor Sargent:
We’re open to talk to everybody. But anyone who wants to talk to us, I’d advise them to read our manifesto and policies first.
There are also five independent members, as well as 4 members from Sinn Fein (-1 from 2002). As if there had been any doubt, Ahern explicitly ruled Sinn Fein out as a partner the day before the election. As for the independents one of them is noted in the Irish Times article as preferring Fine Gael, but willing to work with Ahern. They could be pivotal if Ahern can’t or prefers not to work out a deal with the Greens. Unlike the Greens, the independents are less likely to demand significant programmatic concessions. In any event, the independents’ presence could reduce the Green’s bargaining leverage substantially.
Ireland is, of course, the land of STV. Exact seat totals could vary when all counting is complete, but probably not by much. Then again, this is one of those elections when the ultimate shape of the government may be decided by “not much.”
The vote percentages–based on the party label of voters’ first-preference candidates–were:
Fianna Fail, 41.6 (almost the same as 2002)
Fine Gael, 27.3 (+5)
Sinn Fein, 6.9
Note how the workings of preference transfers appear to have played a role in the Greens having more seats than the extremist Sinn Fein, even though the latter had almost three-percentage points more first-preference votes. The Fine Gael seat increase of 12 percentage points when their votes went up by only five points also suggests success in attracting second (and lower) preferences. STV in action!