An exit poll for today’s general election carried out by the Irish Times indicates no possibility of a return to government for the current Fine Gael/Labour coalition.
The poll indicates the first preference votes of the parties is: Fine Gael 26.1 per cent; Labour 7.8 per cent; Fianna Fáil 22.9 per cent; Sinn Féin 14.9; AAA/PBP 3.6 per cent; Greens 3.5 per cent; Social Democrats 2.8 per cent; Renua 2.6 per cent; Others 28.3 per cent.
The results can only be interpreted as indicatory, as exit polling results have varied significantly from actual results in previous years.
They key figure is that Fine Gael support has collapsed from 36.1 per cent in the last general election to only 26.1 per cent - much worse than the party had been led to believe. Even though it is very similar to the figures they have been getting in polls for the past year or so, it appears that their hoped-for ‘silent Tory’ vote did not materialise.
Some political commentators have already suggested many Fine Gael voters may have still been reluctant to reveal their choice for the survey, which was carried out outside selected polling stations.
The poll indicates the Labour Party received just under 8 per cent support, far behind the 19.5 per cent it achieved at the 2011 general election, but not the devastating collapse some pre-election polls had indicated, and the party may still be able to return most of its leadership figures.
The poll indicates that the coalition parties did not in fact benefit from a perceived swing in the final days of the campaign and lost a lot of ground since the election was called.
However, the kid-gloves treatment of Fianna Fáil in the media appears to have allowed it make a dramatic recovery since the last election and is set to almost double its number of Dail seats.
The strong performance of smaller parties and Independents confirms the trend evidenced in polls going back to the last general election.
On the basis of this result, an alliance of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail now looks like the most probable government option.
The complexity of the single transferable vote system makes it difficult to provide an accurate prediction of the number of seats which will be won by the various parties. However, an analysis carried out by the Irish Election Statistics website predicted seat numbers as follows: Fine Gael 48; Labour 9; Fianna Fáil 40; Sinn Féin 26; AAA/PBP 4; Greens 4; Social Democrats 4; Renua 2; Others 21.
On this basis, a combination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail would have 88 seats, or a buffer of 8 seats above the bare majority. All other potential coalitions appear highly unlikely.