Saturday, June 15, 2024

Irish elections: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael lead as count continues – BBC News

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Image caption, European and local ballot papers are separated before starting the count at a local election counting centre in Dublin

Irish government parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are vying for the lead in the Republic of Ireland’s local elections, as counting continues.

More than 800 councillors have been elected, with 949 seats to be filled across 31 local authorities.

Fine Gael is in the lead with 215 councillors; Fianna Fáil has 205.

The current Irish government has been in place since June 2020, when Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party voted to enter a coalition together.

Independents are also faring well in the election results so far – they have secured 164 council seats between them.

Counting is also ongoing for the European parliament elections and a mayoral race in Limerick city.

‘Broad satisfaction’

Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster that the local election results so far show there is “momentum for the government parties”.

“It tells you there is a broad satisfaction with what the government are doing,” he said.

“The fact that the centre held strongly is good news, especially when you look at what’s happening across the EU where there’s been a massive growth in the far right.”

Fine Gael senator Emer Currie added that it was a “good night for the party”.

“We’re offering stability, showing how important the centre and centrist politics is. We are investing in communities and people are seeing that.

“There is enough room in the centre for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

Image caption, Fianna Fail European Election candidate Barry Andrews

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told the BBC that the government parties in general have had “a successful campaign”.

However he added that the Green Party will lose “a good number of seats” in the local elections compared to its 2019 performance.

“We expected that because 2019 was really a high water mark for environmental politics right across Europe,” he said.

“But by holding our own in a lot of constituencies, and with a chance of winning two seats possibly in the European elections, we’re still very strong.”

By mid-morning on Monday, the Greens had won 21 council seats.

Image caption, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (left) and Green Party European Election candidate Ciaran Cuffe at the election count

Sinn Féin, the main opposition party, is expected to have more councillors elected to local authorities than at the previous local election, but not as many as it wanted or expected.

It currently has 91 seats – less than half of its government rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Ms McDonald has said she will lead a full review into Sinn Féin’s performance.

Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn emphasised that the party has “gained seats all around the state but not at the level we would have hoped for”.

“The last local elections in 2019 pretty disastrous for Sinn Fein,” he said.

“This election was always about catch up. We didn’t regain the amount of ground we would have liked.”

Analysis – Aoife Moore, BBC News NI Dublin reporter

In Ireland, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The current government party Fine Gael are now the largest party in local government, taking over from their partners in government Fianna Fáil.

As counting continues, the big story from Ireland is the success of independent candidates.

Non-party representatives from all stripes have swept the boards, in both rural and urban areas. In Europe, a similar story has emerged.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, both centrist parties, are likely to be the first announced MEPs to return to Brussels.

Sinn Féin, who were at one point tipped to shake up the Irish political scene, have failed in their bid to take over local councils but may return to Europe with one MEP.

The party, who were once uncatchable in political polling, have plummeted as the party has struggled to confirm their stance on immigration and housing for asylum seekers.

Their leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said “lessons will be learned” from this experience.

This is her second disappointing local and European election since taking over from Gerry Adams in 2018.

Image caption, People tallying votes at the Royal Dublin Society during the count for the European elections

Voters headed to the polls for the three elections on Friday.

The polls will provide political parties with an insight into voter sentiment ahead of the next general election, which must be held by March 2025.

Polling stations across the EU shut at 22:00 on Sunday night, allowing count centres to start declaring results for the European elections.

A total of 14 MEPs will be elected across the three constituencies of Ireland South, Midlands-North-West and Dublin.

However, no candidates were last night elected in the European constituencies of Dublin, Midlands-North-West or Ireland South.

What is proportional representation/STV?

The Republic of Ireland uses a voting system known as proportional representation (PR) in all its elections.

Local councillors, TDs (Members of the Irish parliament); Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and even the president of Ireland are all elected via PR.

Under the PR system, every voter has a single transferable vote (STV).

That means in each constituency, people can vote for as many or as few candidates as they want on the ballot paper, indicating their choices in numerical order.

The PR-STV system means that if a voter’s preferred candidate is eliminated because they got too few first preference votes, those ballot papers can be redistributed to the remaining candidates, based on voters’ second preferences, and so on.

Additionally, if a candidate receives more votes than they need to reach the election quota, their surplus votes can be redistributed, according to the voters’ preferences.

The benefits of the PR election system in contrast to a simple “first past the post” election is that PR tends to offer smaller parties and independents a better chance of winning seats against larger, more established parties.

It also gives voters more of a say over who represents them as they can indicate alternative preferences if their first choice candidate has little hope of winning.

But critics of the PR system argue it can result in weak coalitions coming to power, rather than a government with a strong majority which could rule decisively.

They also argue that PR permits parties to stay in power by forming new coalitions, even when their popularity has declined.

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