Irish prime Minister Brian Cowen may have survived a party confidence vote, but he emerged from the ballot further weakened ahead of a likely general election in March, in which his Fianna Fail party is expected to do badly.
He has already lost his foreign minister. Micheal Martin resigned on Tuesday, and is expected to be among the key challengers for party leader if the party decides Cowen is a vote-loser.
Martin had previously been loyal to Cowen. He is reported to have said the party needs a new leader. Despite his sudden resignation, Martin made a show of loyalty on Tuesday night, insisting Fianna Fail was in good shape.
“We go into this election as a united party behind our leader,” he said.
But Martin may not be the only rival for the party leadership. Finance minister Brian Lenihan is the only minister to have publicly criticised Cowen for “lapses of judgement”, and he has attacked alleged contacts between Cowen and the failed Anglo-Irish bank.
If the latest demonstration outside parliament is any guide, Cowen is a dead man walking, and his party faces an electorate incensed at the politician’s failures.