extremely tight results, according to a poll after the polls

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar voted in Castleknock, a suburb of Dublin, on Saturday February 8.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar voted in Castleknock, a suburb of Dublin, on Saturday February 8. Damien Storan / AP

Irish legislative elections promise to be extremely tight for Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who hoped to take advantage of his recent Brexit successes. According to an Ipsos MRBI study for the Irish media, published on Saturday evening February 8, which includes a margin of error of 1.3%, its center-right party, the Fine Gael, would come out on top with 22.4%, ahead of the republican party Sinn Fein (22.3%) and the other big center-right party, the Fianna Fail (22.2%). The counting of votes must begin on Sunday morning and the result may not be known for several days.

According to the head of the political service of the’Irish Times, Pat Leahy, such a result is unprecedented. "It's a tie between three major parties now", he stressed, in a country where political life is traditionally led, alternately or in coalition as in the outgoing government, by the two big center-right parties. "Forming a government will be a very difficult exercise if the parties maintain their pre-election positions. "

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Fianna Fail, like Fine Fail, have ruled out forming a coalition with Sinn Fein because of its ties to the IRA, a paramilitary organization opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland, in the past.

Little chance for Sinn Fein

Young (41), Métis, homosexual, embodying a once very Catholic Ireland that is modernizing, after nearly three years in power, Leo Varadkar saw his popularity dwindle. "People have told us throughout the campaign that they want change"said Mary Lou McDonald, the head of Sinn Fein while voting in Dublin. His proposals to build housing, one of the major themes in the campaign, find a particular resonance with a young and urban electorate.

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In reality, however, Sinn Fein's chances of coming to power after the elections appear to be slim. The left nationalist party presents only 42 candidates for 160 seats of deputies.

Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin said "Confident", voting with the family in Cork (south). "We have an obligation to the people to work as hard as we can to ensure that there is a functioning government after this election", did he declare.

Negotiations to form a coalition government

Leo Varadkar was criticized for campaigning more on Brexit than on the concerns of voters, concerned about issues like housing or health. One week after the UK left the European Union (EU), Ireland and its 4.9 million people are on the front line. It is the only EU country to share a land border with the British neighbor, and the economic ties between the two countries are close.

Trade talks between London and Brussels are approaching, with considerable consequences for trade on the island of Ireland. Leo Varadkar highlighted his role in developing a solution to avoid the return to a physical border between the two Ireland.

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One of the thorniest questions in the London-Brussels divorce deal has brought back memories of three decades "Troubles" in Ulster, a British province, between Republicans (mainly Catholics) and Unionists (especially Protestants), who killed 3,500.

Once the official results are known, negotiations will begin to form a coalition government, unless a party manages to win 80 seats, a highly unlikely scenario. After the last election in 2016, it took 70 days for the two major parties to agree to form a government.


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