Varadkar calls Irish election to try to restore waning power
IRELAND will go to the polls on Feb 8 after the prime minister called a snap general election.
Leo Varadkar yesterday requested that the president dissolve the current parliament to make way for an election, in which health, housing, Brexit and climate change are expected to be the main issues.
The Fine Gael-led administration suffered a series of by-election losses just before Christmas that deprived it of its working majority.
The government is supported by Fianna Fáil, the biggest opposition party, in a confidence and supply arrangement. It was set to lose a no-confidence motion in Simon Harris, the health minister, if an election was not called.
If there is no outright winner in the election, as is predicted, it could take months to form a new government.
Opinion polls suggest that the next administration will be a coalition led by one of the two biggest parties. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which are proeu with centrist economic policies, have ruled out any form of alliance with Sinn Féin after the election.
Fine Gael’s main appeal is its handling of Brexit negotiations and the economy.
Ireland has had the highest growth rate of any EU member state for the past four years, but the country is experiencing a chronic shortage of housing, and chaos in the health sector.
The party has been in office since February 2011, when it came close to winning an overall majority as voters blamed Fianna Fáil for the economic crisis that forced the country into an EU-IMF bail-out programme in 2010.
There has been cross-party consensus on the government’s position on Brexit talks, so it is unlikely that a new administration will stray from the strategy adopted since 2016.