Ireland votes in a number of elections on June 5, 2009, these being European elections (12 MEPs), local elections and two by-elections to the Irish Dáil Éireann (lower house)
All Irish elections use single-transferable vote (STV), where each voter has one vote but preferences all (or a few) candidates on his ballot. At the count, which normally takes quite some time, a quota is calculated using the number of votes cast divided by the number of seats plus one, the result plus one gives the quota. First preferences are tallied and all candidates with more votes than the quota are elected. If he has a surplus of votes, this surplus is distributed based on the second preferences of his voters. Here is an example of STV in the Cork North Central constituency in the 2007 Dáil elections.
Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) is Brian Cowen of Fianna Fáil, a largely centre-right party. He governs in coalition with the Green Party, a few Independents, including members of the now-defunct Progressive Democrats, a neo-liberal centre-right party. In the Dáil, the opposition is formed by Fine Gael, a centre-right party that could be classified as Christian democratic. Ireland’s weird setup with two dominant centrist and ideologically similar parties dates to an old divide at the cause of the Irish Civil War in the 1920s. That year, Sinn Féin, which favoured Ireland’s indepence from the United Kingdom, split over the issue of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Éamon de Valera led the anti-treaty faction of Sinn Féin which eventually lost the civil war but de Valera founded Fianna Fáil and remained an important figure in Irish politics. Fine Gael was founded by the pro-treaty faction in Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil has historically been the largest party in Ireland. Other parties include the social democratic Labour Party, the left-wing Sinn Féin (the party, along with the Greens and since recently Fianna Fáil also operate in Northern Ireland. SF is much stronger in Northern Ireland as the leading nationalist Catholic party) and finally the far-left Socialist Party. Ireland is also the home of the anti-Lisbon Treaty businessman Declan Ganley and his new Libertas Europarty.
Brian Cowen and the government are as popular as cancer and death. Ireland has been hit hard by the economic recession, and Fianna Fáil has been in office since 1997. Fine Gael is far ahead of Cowen’s Fianna Fáil in polls, and some polls even has Fianna Fáil in third behind Labour.
Ireland has twelve MEPs in the European Parliament. Ireland has four Euro constituencies, with three MEPs for each. Here are the results of the 2004 election:
Fine Gael (EPP) 27.8% (+3.2%) winning 5 seats (+1)
Fianna Fáil (AEN) 29.5% (-9.1%) winning 4 seats (-2)
Sinn Féin (EUL) 11.1% (+4.8%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Labour (PES) 10.5% (+1.8%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Kathy Sinnott (ID) 5.0% (new) winning 1 seat (+1)
Green Party (EGP) 4.3% (-2.4%) winning 0 seats (-2)
Marian Harkin (ELDR) 3.7% (+0.3%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Dana Rosemary Scallon (EPP) 3.2% (-0.5%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Socialist Party 1.3% (+0.5%)
Results by constituency:
Dublin: 1 FG, 1 FF, 1 Labour, 1 SF
East: 2 FG, 1 FF
North West: 1 FF, 1 Ind (Harkin), 1 FG
South: 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 Ind (Sinnott)
In Dublin, Fine Gael and Labour’s incumbents are both safe. Since Dublin now has 3 seats (vs. 4 in 2004), the race is between SF’s Mary Lou MacDonald and FF’s Eoin Ryan. There is also another FF candidate, Eibhlin Byrne and a number of other candidates include Déirdre de Búrca (Greens), an anti-coalition ex-Greenie, Patricia McKenna, a Libertas unknown and the Socialist Party’s leader Jim Higgins. Ryan should pick up the vast majority of Byrne’s 2nd preferences, though Higgins (around 6-8%) would undoubtedly transfer to MacDonald. I predict 1 FG, 1 Labour and 1 SF.
In the North West, all three incumbents seem safe. Declan Ganley, the leader of Libertas is standing here, and is pegged at 7-9% in polls. Ganley would need excellent transfers from another anti-Lisbon group – but ideologically polar opposite – Sinn Féin. I predict 1 FF, 1 FG and Harkin.
In the South, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s incumbents are safe. The third seat is in play between Kathy Sinnott, who is supported by Libertas, and Alan Kelly of the Labour Party. This race is the closest one in all of Ireland and is very much in play. I personally predict 1 FF, 1 FG, and 1 Labour.
A weird result could come out of the East, with Fine Gael losing a seat to Labour. Mairead McGuinness (FG), who got in easily in 2004, is likely to do so again. Liam Aylward, FF’s incumbent will struggle more but is in little danger. The third seat is in play between John Paul Phelan (FG, not incumbent) and Nessa Childers (Labour). A recent poll puts Childers second on FPVs, meaning that this is probably a certain FG loss to Labour, giving 1 each for FF, FG and Labour. Fine Gael will need a local showing to spin this loss.
All 1,627 city, county, and town councillors are up for election. 744 are members of town councils, the rest represent cities (Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Waterford) and counties. Here are the 2004 results for city and county councils: Full results available on ElectionsIreland.
Fine Gael: 293 seats (+16)
Fianna Fáil: 302 seats (-80)
Labour: 101 seats (+18)
Sinn Féin: 54 seats (+33)
Progressive Democrats: 19 seats (-6)
Green Party: 18 seats (+10)
Socialist Party: 4 seats (+2)
Independents and Others: 92 seats (+7)
Finally, there are two by-elections. The first is in Dublin Central for a seat vacated by the death of Independent Teachta Dála (TD) Tony Gregory. By-elections for one seat are done using instant runoff voting (IRV), which is STV for one seat. The race here is very divided. Maureen O’Sullivan, a Gregory-ite Independent is at 16% or so in polls, but she could win on transfers from Labour (20%). Fine Gael Senator Pascal Donoghue also has a chance, though FF’s Maurice Ahern (brother of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern) does not.
In Dublin South, a seat vacated by the death of Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) Séamus Brennan, the government is likely to see its majority reduced. George Lee of Fine Gael is the overwhelming favourite, he might even get in on first count. Shay Brennan (FF), the son of Séamus, is fighting Labour’s Alex White.