Ireland’s Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, has called a general election for May 24. Ahern, 55, who became the country’s youngest leader when first elected in 1997, is bidding to win a third consecutive term in office. The main opposition party, Fine Gael, is led by Enda Kenny.
It has traditionally been smaller than Fianna Fail but has teamed up with the left-leaning Labour Party to try to prevent Ahern from remaining in office. Ahern’s popularity dipped last year over controversial loans he received from friends when he was finance minister in the 1990s.
Some analysts say that might explain why recent opinion polls suggest that a victory for Ahern and his junior coalition partner, the pro-business Progressive Democrats, is not a foregone conclusion. This despite Ireland’s rapid economic growth over the last decade.