Tuesday 29 May 2007

Nowhere to turn for eager voters

It's being declared as a stunning turnaround, a lazarus like recovery, the biggest comeback since the 2005 Champions League final. With his party polling just 34% in the Irish Times/MRBI poll (Fine Gael were at 31%) with just weeks to go to the Irish general election, it seemed Bertie Ahern's ten years at the top were going to end unceremoniously in last Thursdays ballot.
At the end of the voting Bertie and Fianna Fail sat pretty with over 41% of the popular vote and fell just five seats short of an overall majority. Politicians all over the world will be wondering what piece of Machiavellian brilliance turned the tide so quickly.
The reality is - I'm afraid - much less exciting. What it ultimately boils down to is the lack of a viable alternative. Yes, Fine Gael increased their lot, but the confidence in their proposed coalition with Labour was low. So too, dare I say it, is the confidence the Irish people hold for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and international representative.
The voters have returned a minority FF/PD government, saying "we hold reservations, but the others haven't done enough to sway us" and a slightly more robust opposition, saying "show us what you are made of". Enda Kenny's claims that his party won the popular vote are nothing short of bizarre - 27.3% Enda!
I found some of the individual races very interesting . In the Cork South Central constituency, Fianna Fail polled one and two with Michael Martin and Michael McGrath elected on the first count. However this was not enough to keep the third seat in the constituency. Down the ticket voting was weak and Dennehy failed to capitalise on either the Martin/McGrath surpluses or the votes of eliminated PD John Minihan.
Equally interesting was Enda Kenny's constituency of Mayo, where Fine Gael took over half the vote and three of the five seats. Sadly for the party, this Kenny for Taoiseach impetus failed to inspire the rest of the country.
I don't hold out much expectation from the next Dail. I'm sure it will be more of the same. The real interest will be Bertie's move. I doubt even he expects to win a fourth term; could we see a Blair-like exodus mid term? Whatever he does, he won't be slipping quietly into the night. It's just not his style.

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