Yanis Varoufakis was quoted today on RTE (the Irish national broadcaster) as saying, in relation to the general election, “The old world is dead but there is nothing to replace it”. I am not sure I agree completely but he has a point. Since its inception Ireland has been governed (usually) by Fianna Fail, and occasionally Fine Gael in coalition with others. The wrongly named Labour Party has performed the role of propping up the two main parties, both right of centre, and this time has been punished viciously. A similar fate befell the Green Party, who suffered total wipe out in 2011 as a result of being the junior party in coalition with Fianna Fail. (They are back with two TDs and 2.7% of the vote.)
Has it all changed? In 1997 FF, FG and Labour commanded over 90% of the vote. Even in the post-crash 2011 election the big three achieved 78% of the vote. In 2016 this dropped to 56%. The two Conservative parties, FF and FG, did not manage 50% between, them. Renua, a right wing split from FG, has been wiped out. The “hard left” in the shape of AAA-PBP has at least 5 TDs on around 4% of the vote. Sinn Fein (the new Fianna Fail or part of the Left?) has taken around 14%, a significant increase on its 2011 figure, but less than it hoped. Independents – some of whom are clearly on the Left – have taken around 18% of the vote.
What happens next? The only viable government appears to be a coalition of the old big two, FF and FG. Given that the results make a governing coalition of the Left impossible many would “welcome” this outcome as it might finally lead to the development of class based politics in the 26 counties. Sinn Fein would then be the main opposition party. Whether it would see its future as part of the Left, or seek to take over from FF as the main “republican” party, remains to be seen. The other possibility is a return to the polls later this year, but none of the parties want to be blamed for provoking another election. If the old world is not yet dead it is clearly in very poor health.
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