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February 10, 2020 - Ireland’s political parties were scrambling to adjust to a new reality Monday, after an earth-shaking election that saw the left-wing nationalist party Sinn Fein win the biggest share of votes.
Sinn Fein, the party historically linked to the Irish Republican Army and its violent struggle for a united Ireland, received 24.5% of the first-preference votes in Saturday’s election. That bested Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the two centrist parties that have governed Ireland since it won independence from Britain a century ago.
Fianna Fail received 22.2% of the votes and Fine Gael, the party of incumbent Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, got 20.9%.
Sinn Fein’s left-wing proposals for tackling Ireland’s housing crisis and creaking healthcare system proved a powerful draw for young voters in a country that is still dealing with aftershocks of the 2008 global financial crisis, which hammered its debt-driven “Celtic Tiger” economy.
Vote counting was resuming Monday to fill all the seats in the 160-Dail, the lower house of Ireland’s parliament. Ireland uses a proportional-representation system in which voters rank candidates from first to last, with the lower preferences of elected or defeated candidates redistributed among their rivals.
It’s highly unlikely that any party will get the 80 seats needed for a majority in parliament. That makes some form of coalition inevitable, but forming a stable alliance looks tough.
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