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Irish Presidential Election Result (Updated)

by Frank Schnittger Sat Oct 29th, 2011 at 02:49:15 PM EST


Michael D. Higgins celebrates victory with his family

Michael D. Higgins, Labour candidate and long time civil rights advocate has won the Irish Presidential election by a wide margin.  Opinion polls, up to last Sunday, were showing Sean Gallagher, former Fianna Failer, reality TV star and dodgy businessman with a strong lead. Public perceptions changed dramatically following a Presidential debate on Monday where Gallagher was exposed as a "bagman" or senior fundraiser for Fianna Fail and also raised questions about his business ethics which were never satisfactorally answered.  The worry is he came within a week of being elected - the power of positive re-branding and the desperation of the electorate for a new face almost led to the election of someone with a very shallow CV.

The table below shows the dramatic swing in public voting intentions in the last few days of the campaign by comparing opinion poll results with the actual outcome:


Basically there was a swing of 10-15% from Gallagher to Higgins in the last week.  Details of who switched to who are contained in an RTE exit poll here. The other candidates performed more or less as expected based on poll predictions.  Martin McGuinness finished third and consolidated Sinn Fein´s attempt to displace Fianna Fail as the third largest party. Gay Mitchell obtained a disastrous 6% considering his party, Fine Gael, is still registering 35% support in the polls. David Norris received a creditable 6% to finish fifth and the first of the genuine independents. Mary Davis and Dana Rosemary Scallon were more or less humiliated on 3%.

Turnout was a respectable 56%, and Michael D. Higgins ended up winning by a very wide margin of 57% to 35% for Gallagher when all the other candidates has been eliminated and their votes redistributed based on their voter´s next preference vote. For details of how lower preference votes were redistributed, see here.

Labour had an exceptionally good day in that their candidate, Patrick Nulty, also won the bye election in Dublin West for the seat left vacant by the death from cancer of former Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan. This is the first time since 1982 that a governing party has won a bye election and means that Fianna Fail now has no sitting members of Parliament in the whole of the Dublin area. See detailed count results here. The Fianna Fail and Independent Socialist Party candidates were tied for second place which indicates just how much Dublin has moved to the left.

A referendum to change the constitution to allow Judges pay to be reduced in line with civil servants pay was passed by a 79% to 21% margin despite claims from some lawyers that this could interfere with judicial independence. Irish judges are amongst the highest paid in the world but the constituion, up until now, did not allow their pay to be reduced.

(Update)

A second referendum, to allow the Houses of parliament to conduct investigations and make findings of fact against individuals was defeated by 53% to 47%. Despite the fact that many judicial investigations have proved to be hugely expensive, many voters were concerned that transfering the power of investigation to elected politicians was not consistent with maintaining their civil rights.

So what effect, if any, will the election of Michael D. Higgins to a largely ceremonial office have on Irish politics? The following are some suggestions taken from my comment below.

1.An emphasis on human rights abroad and inclusiveness at home.

2.A broadly pro-EU attitude (in contrast to Dana) and a social democratic political ethos with state intervention still seen as essential to moderate the effects of neo-liberalism and the markets.

3.A continued rejection of crypto Fianna Fail style "entrepreneurship" and gaming the industrial support policies of the state.

4.A defeat of any attempt to panic the polity into a fascistic or demagogic reaction to the economic crisis.

5.A movement away from old style civil war politics (a la Gay Mitchell). Fine Gael is on notice that its mandate is to fix the economy, not to engage in old style Tit4tat with Fianna Fail.

6.A continued rejection of the legitamacy of the physical force traditions of republicanism (a la McGuinness).

7.The mainstreaming of LGTB issues with Norris getting a decent level of support despite a disastrous campaign.

8.The mainstreaming of Labour in the West - Labour has traditionally not done well in the west and north west

9.A reaffirmation of the role of trade unions and a less confrontational style of politics between the publc and private sectors

10.A rejection of shallow reality TV style personality politics in favour of a track record of consistency and achievement over along period.

In other words a relatively mature demos in a still functioning democracy...

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I couldn't make any sense of the by-election results, which indicate a strong swing against Fine Gael (-12) and a smaller swing against Labour (-5), until I realised that it's about electing a single member in a multi-member constituency.

Now there are two Labour members out of four, and no FF, whereas FF would have retained a seat on these numbers, had the four seats been renewed. This by-election method will always tend to give an unfair result.

But indeed, the swing to the left since 2007 is impressive.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Oct 30th, 2011 at 07:11:32 AM EST
Lenihan got in on family history. That didn't transfer to the new guy.

This area often elects both a Labour and Socialist candidate. We nearly had the only two Socialist Party TDs representing here! There's a big low income area and a few islands of middle income/middle class areas.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2011 at 07:26:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Irish Presidential Election Result
The Fianna Fail and Independent Socialist Party candidates were tied for second place which indicates just how much Dublin has moved to the left.

Since it was an exact tie on the 4th count, what eliminated the SP candidate? Lower 1st preference?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 30th, 2011 at 02:32:55 PM EST
Yes, indeed. That I learned by wasting my time on irish election coverage.
by IM on Sun Oct 30th, 2011 at 08:06:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the previous diary, both you and Colman indicated some distaste for Michael D. Higgins. Could you be more specific as to the reason(s)?

And now that President Higgins is in, what change will that mean in Ireland's politics (if anything)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Oct 30th, 2011 at 04:59:39 PM EST
All distate is relative.  For me Michael D. Higgins was about the only remaining "acceptable"" candidate.  (Both Colman and I gave him our no. 2 vote behind Norris whom we wanted to show support for but whom we knew woud be eliminated early.  Our votes then transferred as intended to Higgins).

Ideologically he has been on the left of the labour party and a consistent advocate for human rights. He can come across as having something of a sanctimonious persona and many find his voice irritating but these are "personality issues" in a campaign dominated by personalities because the substantive policy powers of the office are almost non-existent.

In terms of the effect on Irish political culture, I would summarise this as:

  1. An emphasis on human rights abroad and inclusiveness at home.

  2. A broadly pro-EU attitude (in contrast to Dana) and a social democratic political ethos with state intervention still seen as essential to moderate the effects of neo-liberalism and the markets.

  3. A continued rejection of crypto Fianna Fail style "entrepreneurship" and gaming the industrial support policies of the state.

  4. A defeat of any attempt to panic the polity into a fascist or demagogic reaction to the economic crisis.

  5. A movement away from old style civil war politics (a la Gay Mitchell). Fine Gael is on notice that its mandate is to fix the economy, not to engage in old style Tit4tat with Fianna Fail.

  6. A continued rejection of the legitamacy of the physical force traditions of republicanism (a la McGuinness).

  7. The mainstreaming of LGTB issues

  8. The mainstreaming of Labour in the West - Labour has traditionally not done well in the west and north west

  9. A reaffirmation of the role of trade unions and a less confrontational style of politics between the publc and private sectors

  10. A rejection of shallow reality TV style personality politics in favour of a track record of consistency and achievement over along period.

In other words a relatively mature demos in a still functioning democracy...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 31st, 2011 at 05:03:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, we said he was annoying. He tends to grate on my nerves. I'll just have to be sure I keep the TV turned off when he's on. Which won't be much of an achievement since we don't have a working TV service.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2011 at 07:22:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The second constitutional referendum to give wide powers of investigation to Parliament was defeated by 53% TO 47% amid concerns that the proposals had not been adequately explained and discussed, and that they could give rise to McCarthy style kangaroo courts.  A row has broken out between the government and the independent electoral commission over who was to blame for the defeat. I was in favour of the proposal, but have to concede that a very inadequate level of public discussion/understanding led to understandable fears that a future Government could abuse the powers being granted.  My problem is that I feal that the legal industry has abused its privileged position even more than I could imagine any future government being able to do so.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 31st, 2011 at 05:19:37 AM EST
I voted no, largely on the basis that they hadn't bothered making a case for it. Also, the likes of the Irish Council on Civil Liberties were against it, which is seldom a good sign.

I voted no to the judicial pay referendum on the basis that it was gratuitous populism, which isn't a good reason for messing about with the constitution.

Did a lawyer eat your puppy or something?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2011 at 07:21:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More or less - you try getting access to the courts to defend a gratuitous case against your fasmily without it costing you many thousands... with the risk of it taking years off your life and costing you many thousands more if you don´t settle out of court.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 at 05:06:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When the laws are written primarily by lawyers, you tend to get laws and legal systems that funnel money into their pockets, I've noticed... heh.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher
by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 at 12:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your new Prez is really quite cute. He looks like a little leprechaun.
by sgr2 on Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 at 12:35:26 PM EST
Yes, he's the very picture of what we expect an Irish president to look like.

Not like the last couple, eh?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Nov 3rd, 2011 at 11:56:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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