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Irish PM urged to call early election after surge in support at polls

todayJune 10, 2024 6

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 Ireland’s New Taoiseach Simon Harris speaks to media alongside the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland at Stormont Castle on May 3, 2024 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)





Ireland’s prime minister Simon Harris was being urged Monday to call an early general election to capitalise on a surge in support for the government and a slump for the main opposition in European and local polls.

An election has to be held by March next year and Harris, who succeeded Leo Varadkar in the top job in April, said on Sunday he intends to lead the government to a full term.

But political commentators say he could be tempted to call an election later this year after his governing coalition’s relative success in the two votes at the weekend.

“An early general election is now more likely,” said the Irish Times daily.

“Despite their protestations, it would be astonishing if the government parties were not seriously considering it.”

Some prominent figures in Harris’s centre-right Fine Gael party have already urged him to take the plunge.

Both Fine Gael and coalition partner the centre-right Fianna Fail secured vote shares of more than 20 percent at local elections.

Early count results in the European election held at the same time on Friday also indicated leads for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail candidates. Final European results are expected only later this week.

In contrast, support for the biggest opposition party, the leftist-nationalist Sinn Fein, has plummeted in recent months.

The party, led by Mary Lou McDonald and until recently Ireland’s most popular party, slumped well below expectations at both ballots.

At the local elections Sinn Fein’s vote share plunged to under 12 percent — around a 20-point fall from opinion polls last year when it was widely seen as a shoe-in to take power.

Analysts said the drastic drop in its support is partly due to its pro-migration stance being out of kilter with its working-class voter base.

Sinn Fein’s strategy of standing its highest ever number of candidates was also seen as a mistake that split an already falling vote share.

“We will regroup, I am sorry that we didn’t do better,” McDonald told reporters on Sunday while vowing to stay on as party leader.

For the first time in Ireland, migration dominated the local and European election campaigns amid record number of asylum-seeker arrivals and unease at migrant tent cities appearing on Dublin streets.

The past year has also seen a series of arson attacks on properties earmarked to accommodate asylum-seekers and riots in Dublin in part fuelled by far-right agitators on social media.

After taking over as taoiseach (prime minister), Harris quickly tightened the asylum system and cut financial support for refugees, moves that critics said were pandering to the far-right but were also seen as shoring up the party’s support.




Written by: Staff Writer

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