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A historic realignment?

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 29th, 2009 at 09:02:40 PM EST


Cross-posted from the Th!nkaboutit euroblogging campaign.

The Irish Times has just produced a new poll directly comparable to the one I analysed two weeks ago in Data, Data, Data.  The general picture over the past two weeks of the campaign is remarkably stable, with few changes greater than the 2% margin of error.  The overall results for party support (if a general election were held today) are:

Fianna Fáil, 20 per cent (down 1 point)
Fine Gael, 36 per cent (down 2 points)
Labour, 23 per cent (up 3 points)
Sinn Féin, 8 per cent (down 1 point)
Green Party, 3 per cent (no change);
Independents/others, 10 per cent (up 1 point).

Up until now Irish politics has been dominated by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael - two more or less conservative parties arising out of the Irish Civil War (1922-23) - with Labour, Sinn Fein, the Greens and some minor parties playing bit part roles as members of Government coalitions or the Opposition. It would indeed be a change of historic proportions if these figures were reflected in the next general election, as Fianna Fail would slip from being the largest party (in every election since its formation in 1926) to third place.  Labour would become the second largest party, and arguably, Irish politics would adopt the left-right dialectic so common in European politics.  

However the Irish electorate traditionally give the Government of the day something of a kicking in mid-term elections like the European, Local and the two Irish Parliamentary bye-elections which are being held on June 5th., and it remains to be seen whether such a dramatic change in party support will actually materialise at the next general election (due within three years at the latest, but much sooner if the Fianna Fail Green coalition breaks up).

However in the terms of the European Elections, the picture is hardly any more promising for Fianna Fail who are already down to an historic low at the last election.  Based on a detailed constituency level analysis of the polls, Fianna Fail (4 EP seats last time) is likely to go down to 3,  and Fine Gael (5) is likely to go down to 4 seats, Labour (1)is likely to go up to 2 or 3 seats, Sinn Fein will hold their single seat, and the two independents may either stay at 2 seats or go down to 1. What these figures show, however, is that Labour, not Libertas, has been the primary beneficiary of the political upheaval following the collapse of the economy.

Because the Irish system of proportional representation means that you vote for candidates, rather than parties (as in a list system), it is necessary to look at the individual votes going to each candidate in each constituency in order to make such predictions. N.B. The candidate lists below are not exhaustive because not all candidate figures are include in published reports of the poll. Virtually all the major candidates are included, however.

Dublin Constituency

There are four sitting MEPs for a constituency now reduced to three seats so one has to lose out.  Support for the leading contenders in the current poll (with the last poll's figures (14 May) in brackets) are as follows:

Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) 28% (26)
Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 25% (21)
Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin) 11% (14)
Eoin Ryan (Fianna Fáil) 9% (11)
Joe Higgins (Socialist) 9% (7)
Deirdre De Búrca (Greens) 6% (n/a)
Patricia McKenna (Ind. - former Green MEP) 5% (n/a)
Eibhlín Byrne (Fianna Fáil) 5% (n/a)
Caroline Simons (Libertas) 2% (n/a)

As Gay Mitchell and Proinsias De Rossa exceed the 25% quota (in the 3 seat constituency), they are likely to be elected on the first count (when only first preference votes are counted).

The bottom candidates are then eliminated in turn and their votes are redistributed in accordance with the 2nd. and 3rd. etc. preferences shown on their voters' ballot papers.  Eoin Ryan can expect to get the bulk of his party colleague, Eibhlín Byrne's votes which should move him marginally ahead of Mary Lou McDonald.  However Mary Lou McDonald is likely to do better with transfers from fellow anti-Lisbon candidates Joe Higgins (Socialist), Patricia McKenna and Caroline Simons (Libertas) and fellow female candidate Deirdre De Búrca (Greens) (women candidates tend to transfer in slightly greater numbers to fellow women).  So on these figures, Mary Lou McDonald would be the slight favourite to hold her seat, with Joe Higgins (Socialist) also having an outside chance of winning it.

Failing to win a seat in the Capital would be a real blow to Fianna Fail's Leader and Taoiseach Brian Cowen's credibility.

East Constituency

Mairéad McGuinness (Fine Gael) 29% (33)
Nessa Childers (Labour) 21% (17)
Liam Aylward (Fianna Fail) 20% (19)
John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael) 7% (n/a)

This race looks like a straightforward call for the top three candidates, which means Labour win a seat at the expense of Fine Gael

South Constituency

Brian Crowley (Fianna Fail) 30% (27)
Seán Kelly (Fine Gael) 16% (17)
Colm Burke's (Fine Gael) 10% (10)
Alan Kelly (Labour) 12% (13)
Kathy Sinnott 14% (12)
Toireasa Ferris (Sinn Féin) 10% (12)

Kathy Sinnott (current Independent MEP) has pulled ahead of Labour's Alan Kelly, and now looks more likely to retain her seat when Sinn Fein's candidate is eliminated and her votes transferred based on her voters second preferences.

North West Constituency

Former MEP Pat "The Cope" Gallagher (FF) 20% (19)
MEP Marian Harkin (Independent) 19% (18)
MEP Jim Higgins (Fine Gael) 17% (20)
Joe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) 10% (8)
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Sinn Fein) 9% (n/a)
Declan Ganley 9% (9%)
Paschal Mooney (Fianna Fáil) 7% (n/a)

Paschal Mooney and Joe O'Reilly's votes will transfer disproportionately to their party colleagues Pat "The Cope" Gallagher and Jim Higgins respectively, ensuring their election. Declan Ganley has failed to improve his position in the past two weeks and now looks extremely unlikely to be elected.

Prediction (based on poll 2 weeks ago)

Fianna Fail 3 (seats down from 4 in last EP)
Fine Gael 4 (5)
Labour 3 (1)
Sinn Fein 1 (1)
Independents 1 (2)

The main change from the prediction based on the poll two weeks ago is that it is now more likely that Kathy Sinnott (Independent) will retain her seat in Ireland South and that Labour will therefore only win two seats.  There is now also a small chance that the last seat in Dublin will go, not to Sinn Fein, but to the Socialist party candidate, Jim Higgins.  This would be a major blow to Sinn Fein morale as they are not polling well despite the economic downturn and the implosion of Fianna Fail's vote.

As usual any recs here or ratings on Th!nkaboutit very welcome.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 09:04:57 PM EST
No figure is given for Libertas candidate Raymond O'Malley   who I interviewed in an earlier post in Ireland East.  I suspect this is because he registers under 5% and is thus unlikely to effect the outcome of the poll, with three candidates being so far ahead.  He is fishing in the same pool of votes (farming community) as Mairead McGuinness.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 03:54:28 AM EST
Phew! I would hate to see Libertas anywhere in power, as for the FF, good riddance.
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 12:55:11 PM EST
What are your views on Kathy Sinnott?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 02:25:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was hoping you wouldn't ask this question ;.)! I like her for obvious reasons, even though she may be an "eurosceptic". I think most of the people I know share my views: it's a hard case to quantify!
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 09:23:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A good family/charity worker but also a bit of a head case?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 07:07:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 12:32:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Labour left? I mean other then in name?

This is not snark, it is a question. Considering the state of european social democratic parties I feel I have to ask.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 03:11:39 PM EST
Not very.  It never bought into the neo-lib cool-aid a la Bliar and Ireland has a strong tradition of state intervention in the economy (even under Fianna Fail).  The succession of "National Agreements" or "Social Partnerships" since the late 1980's has also brought the trade union movement into the same tent as employers and Government at national level and meant we never had the Thatcherite union bashing.  

In Irish terms you could characterise it as liberal/secular on social issues, Keynesian on economic issues and social democratic in the sense of supporting a mixed economy with a relatively strong public sector, employment legislation and social protections.  In international terms it would be strongly pro-UN, EU, human rights, development aid, UN peace keeping, action on climate change etc.

In ET terms we could therefore characterise it as "progressive"!!!!!!! without it even having a revolutionary or militant wing.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 03:54:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's refreshing.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 04:13:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman would probably tell you different!  Redstar thinks I'm a conservative, so perhaps all these things are relative...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 04:41:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Labour wants to be left but is afraid to be.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:03:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's still an improvement over our SocDems - they want to be right, but are afraid to...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 at 05:46:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the banking mess has a neo-liberal odor about it.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 06:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely, but we were discussing the Labour Party above.  The banking mess is all about a property bubble fuelled by low Euro interest rates, lax regulation, and poor management decision making.  This one is being put at Fianna Fail's door because of its association with the property bubble specialists - developers, bankers, and (lack of) regulators.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 07:02:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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