As the Republic of Ireland goes to the polls, Bertie Ahern is bidding to stay on as Taoiseach, or Prime Minister. But he is having to fight for a third term after one of the nation’s closest election races in living memory. His Fianna Fail party has appeared ahead in the final countdown to the poll. But he might have expected an easy win on the back of his country’s economic success and his hand in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
Frontrunner to oust him is Fine Gael’s leader Enda Kenny. There is little to choose between the main parties on key issues like tax and spending but the opposition has tapped into a sense that the inheritance from Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom is being squandered.
In post-election horse trading, the nationalists of Sinn Fein could play a major role although so far the key players have ruled out any alliance with Gerry Adams’ party. Labour and the Green Party are also potential kingmakers. Ireland’s voting system means full results may not be known for several days. A close result could then lead to prolonged coalition talks as parties try to cobble together a parliamentary majority.