Early elections in Ireland have been set for February 25.
Embattled Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who announced on Monday that he would not seek reelection to parliament, got a standing ovation after his valedictory speech.
He said: “It has been a privilege to serve the people of Ireland in our government. In every government department in which I have served, my over-riding objective was to do my best by the Irish people.”
But Cowen has been widely blamed for mishandling Ireland’s financial crisis, and his party has begun preparing for a tough election.
Fianna Fail, which has dominated Irish politics since the 1930s, is expected to get a drubbing in the polls.
A coalition between the centre-right Fine Gael party and the centre-left Labour party is expected.