More than three million people in Ireland are going to the polls today, to decide whether to re-elect Bertie Ahern for a third term, or to opt for change. On the eve of the vote Ahern’s Fianna Fail party was just ahead in the polls, but only just, and it has been an extremely tight campaign.
The first results, due tomorrow, are likely to reflect that. The centre-right government is banking on its strong economic record, and the brokering of peace in Northern Ireland, to return it to office. But Ahern has been beleaguered by accusations of financial scandals and sustained attacks by his political opponents who say he has not lived up to his promises on health and transport.
Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny is the man hoping to oust him, in partnership with Labour. The Irish electoral system makes a coalition of some sort almost inevitable, which could boost the importance of Sinn Fein and the Green Party when the final tally is known in a few days.