Ireland officially began its vote count follwing the General Elections that took place on February 8. Exit polls on Sunday suggested a three-way tie between the competing parties, international media reported. Ireland uses a system of proportional representation but also includes preferential voting, meaning that first-choice votes could be shifted to other candidates and translate to a different proportion of seats.
Exit polls were released as soon as the voting ended at 10pm (local time) on Saturday. The polls showed Prime Minster’s Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party with 22.4 per cent of first preference votes, followed by Sinn Fein which won 22.3 per cent while Fianna Fail gained 22.2 per cent. The polls also indicated that a hung parliament was almost inevitable and long political negotiations were ahead.
Once a minority party, Sinn Fein which was the political wing of the IRA during the country's freedom struggle against Britain has apparently reshaped its image and become a popular option for young voters who are frustrated with issues such as housing unaffordability. According to the exit polls, the party lead by Mary Lou McDonald could technically form a coalition with other parties though Fine Gael has announced that it will not accept Sinn Fein in any coalition. Even the third leading party Fianna Fail has said the same.
However, many analysts believe that it is possible for two leading parties to work together, international media reported. According to reports, if no political negotiations fail, the fresh election is a possibility. Analysts reportedly said that the vote count by the end of the day would show much larger differences in the votes than the exit polls. However, counting in some constituencies could take up to days. Previously, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail - the two parties that have dominated Irish politics since independence - have shunned Sinn Fein because of its links to the Irish Republican Army.