Who will win the 2020 Ireland election? Only the Irish people know, but we all will on 8 February 2020.
Irish politics, that is the Republic of Ireland, has a number of political parties, but is dominated by two of them. One is Fine Gael, the party of government in Ireland since 2011. The second is Fianna Fáil, the primary opposition party of Éamon de Valera. Since 1932, the sitting Taoiseach (prime minister) has been from one of those two parties.
Both parties sit on the centre of the political spectrum, perhaps leaning to the right but not overly so. On the surface, they seem similar in many ways, but when election day comes in Ireland, they will be staunch opponents. The question is if any of Ireland’s other political parties will become the kingmakers, or perhaps even do better. While Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have had almost 90 uninterrupted years of Taoisigh, parties like Labour and Sinn Féin have been called upon to support minority governments or join coalitions.
Below are the fact about this election, and soon, there will be real results for who will serve in the next Oireachtas (legislature), and specifically the Dáil Éireann, the lower house.
2020 Ireland Election Results
Fianna Fáil, in opposition for most of the last decade, won the most seats in the Irish general election. However, they won less than half of the seats they would need in order to form an overall majority. Even if they joined together with Fine Gael, the outgoing government and another centrist party, they would need another seven seats to put together a majority coalition. Those could come from the large font of independents, who have 19 seats. If the Greens are willing to work with Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael would do the same, that would get them over the line.
Sinn Féin came in second in the seat total. However, they have fewer options for putting together a majority coalition or even taking power as a minority government. Neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael will work with them, and they are much more likely to work with each other, despite being traditional rivals. With those 73 seats unavailable, it makes the coalition math much harder. Given that FF and FG are discussing a coalition, it makes Sinn Féin’s job of forming an administration almost impossible.
Sinn Féin finished first in the primary vote total for the first time in almost 100 yeas. The governing Fine Gael fell into third place behind SF and Fianna Fáil.
Dáil Éireann at Dissolution
Fine Gael was by a slim margin the largest party in the dissolved Dáil Éireann. Leo Varadkar’s minority government was propped up by their rivals, Fianna Fáil, from the opposition benches on a confidence and supply basis. Others like Sinn Féin and Labour sat in opposition.
2020 Ireland Election Party Leaders
This will be the first election into which the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, will lead Fine Gael. Micheál Martin has led Fianna Fáil in the two previous elections, 2011 and 2016.
What Do The Polls Say About The 2020 Ireland Election?
Opinion polls say that after nine years of Fine Gael Taoisigh, this could be a change election. In the campaign period, both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have caught up to Fine Gael, leaving the party of government in third place in some surveys. Any Sinn Féin-led government would be a huge adjustment for Ireland, given the 88 years of FF or FG.
For example, a Red C/Business Post poll the week before the election had Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin tied at 24 percent, with Fine Gael close behind on 21 percent.1 This is not the only recent poll that showed trouble for Fine Gael, with Panelbase/The Times putting Fianna Fáil in the lead with Fine Gael in third place behind Sinn Féin.2 As recently as October, Varadkar had a job approval rating at 51 percent, but in this first Irish election after Brexit, that has not translated into support in February.3
1: Michael Brennan, “Red C Poll: Sinn Féin level with Fianna Fáil as Fine Gael plummets,” Business Post, February 2, 2020, https://www.businesspost.ie/election2020/red-c-poll-sinn-fein-level-with-fianna-fail-as-fine-gael-plummets-4ea91fe5
2: Ben Haugh, “Election 2020: Poll shows Sinn Féin heading for second place as Fine Gael falters,” The Sunday Times, February 1, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/election-2020-poll-shows-sinn-fein-heading-for-second-place-as-fine-gael-falters-wtsj2c0wd?shareToken=a514fabbfa81737c6c29bf2ec6442ffd
3: Pat Leahy, “Irish Times poll: Varadkar’s approval rating rises above 50%,” The Irish Times, October 14, 2019, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/irish-times-poll-varadkar-s-approval-rating-rises-above-50-1.4050285
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