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Make-or-break for Irish coalition government deal

Make-or-break for Irish coalition government deal

FILE PHOTO: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar speaks at a count centre, during Ireland's national election, in Citywest, near Dublin, Ireland, February 9, 2020. (REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan)

DUBLIN: A three-party coalition to rule Ireland is set to be approved or vetoed on Friday (Jun 26), four months after a fractious general election upended the political orthodoxy of the Republic.

Results of intra-party polls among the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green parties later on Friday will reveal whether an alliance deal has rank and file backing.

If the coalition deal is sealed it will represent an historic compromise between old civil war rivals Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, longtime stalwarts of Ireland's political centre-right.

However, if blocked the Republic faces another general election as it claws its way out of coronavirus lockdown.

It would also mean a rerun of the February poll which saw republican party Sinn Fein surge into the mainstream.

The biggest concern for the deal is focused on the Green Party, which requires a higher standard of two-thirds majority approval from its membership.

FILE PHOTO: Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin speaks to media after exit polls were announced in Ireland's national election, in Cork, Ireland, February 9, 2020. (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo)

If the "programme for government" is approved Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is expected to be voted in as Taoiseach, or prime minister, in a special parliamentary sitting on Saturday.

As the head of Ireland's biggest party - with 38 seats in the 160 seat chamber - he will take the first turn as rotating Taoiseach under the novel terms of the deal.

Incumbent Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar - whose party was routed to third place with 35 seats - is slated to return to office later, reportedly taking the mantle in December 2022.


On Thursday night Mr Varadkar predicted the parties "will vote to go into coalition with each other".

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference he forecast that "the yes vote will be larger than people expect in all three parties".

The Irish Times reported Friday that senior Green Party figures are "cautiously optimistic" but that two lawmakers expect a "tight result".

The Green Party secured numerous flagship concessions in the coalition deal, wielding an outsized influence as a 12-seat bloc vital to bring the alliance over the threshold to command a parliamentary majority.

But progressive party members have reason to be cautious of a deal with Ireland's centre-right establishment.

After entering a coalition with Fianna Fail in 2007 the party was wiped out in the ensuing 2011 general election, losing all of its six parliamentary seats.

However a rerun of the general election is likely to yield uncertain results.

In a dramatic upheaval of the status quo, Ireland's February election saw republican party Sinn Fein - historically associated with paramilitary the Irish Republican Army (IRA) - surge to prominence.

The one-time fringe party won the popular vote with 24.5 per cent of first preference ballots and became the second largest force in parliament after running on a left-wing platform.

FILE PHOTO: Sinn Fein supporters hold a national flag as votes are counted in Ireland's national election, in Dublin, Ireland, February 9, 2020. (REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo)

If the coalition government is formed, Sinn Fein expects to become the main party of opposition.

Political analysts suggested that could act as a vital foothold for a push to power in the next general election.

However the coronavirus crisis has improved the prospect of Varadkar's Fine Gael party, which bled seats in February after pinning its election campaign on success in Brexit negotiations.

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll published last week showed Mr Varadkar with an astonishing 75 per cent approval rating.

Meanwhile Fine Gael polled at 37 per cent - dramatically improving their prospects in any electoral reprise.

Source: AFP/kv


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