Irish voters frustrated by economy choose next leader

Irish voters frustrated by economy choose next leader”

Three Irish parties have won more or less equal shares of the vote in a snap election, according to an exit poll, spelling a breakdown of Ireland's traditional two-party system.

Negotiations to form a coalition government are likely to be complex with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail previously stating they would not enter an agreement with Sinn Fein.

The exit poll results were announced on Saturday evening after voting finished at 10pm, after sampling across the country among 5,000 respondents.

The Ipsos MRBI exit poll showed Fine Gael on 22.4%, Sinn Fein on 22.3% and pre-election favourites Fianna Fail on 22.2%.

Count centers will begin sorting ballot papers from the estimated 3.3 million eligible voters at 0900 GMT.

Mr Varadkar had hoped the economic upturn his party has overseen since 2011 and his own diplomatic successes on Brexit, helping prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Britain's departure from the European Union, would extend his near three-year premiership.

It was unlikely that any party will reach that number, so another coalition government was probable, said the BBC.

Ironically, Sinn Fein's success could have borne even more fruit if it had run enough candidates to fully capitalize on the new wave of support, indicating that not only the establishment, but even the party itself wasn't expecting such a surge.

Mr Varadkar's last government - a minority administration that included several independent TDs - was sustained in power through a historic confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail.

"I do think there is need to change", said Noleen Kelly, 50, who works in the public sector, outside a Dublin polling station.

However, Brexit did not feature prominently in his campaign that was instead dominated by domestic issues such as spiralling rental prices, record-breaking homeless numbers, controversy over the state pension age and a struggling health service. The party has struck a chord with younger voters on the defining election issue: the cost and availability of housing. "The gains Sinn Fein are making are consistent with what we're seeing in other democracies".

Breege Quinn spoke on the phone with Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald after Conor Murphy apologised for controversial claims he made 13 years ago in the wake of Paul Quinn's murder, when he branded the South Armagh man a smuggler and criminal.

Fianna Fail's leader, Micheal Martin, said Sinn Fein was not fit to govern because "they have not cleansed themselves of their bloody past".

Despite his leadership in the opinion poll, Sinn Fein, who wants to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic, is only presenting 42 candidates and can not form a majority government, even if everyone wins. McDonald, a Dubliner, has helped Sinn Fein shed its hard-line image since replacing Gerry Adams, a Belfast native who led the party from 1983 to 2018.

Efforts to form a government are likely to be protracted as there is no clear victor. "I'm voting for the change", he told the Reuters news agency, adding that it meant switching to Sinn Fein from Fine Gael.

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