Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ireland's left breakthrough

Looks like the United Left Alliance has made a breakthrough in the Irish elections gaining three confirmed seats, with two pending. The formerly ruling Fianna Fail had its first preference votes slashed by 24%, with the surplus distributed among Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein. The Greens got less than 2% of first preference votes and lost all their seats (I hope the Liberals are taking note). Here's the analysis:

Voters have given the main Irish bosses' party a drubbing in the country’s general election. And the radical left has made a breakthrough, getting at least three TDs elected, with more results to come.

The biggest shift is the slump in support for the Fianna Fáil. Its share of the vote fell to less than 15 percent nationally – compared to 42 percent in the 2007 election.

This is the worst ever defeat for the party that has dominated Irish politics since independence from Britain in 1921 and that has been in power since 1997.

Fianna Fáil’s support in Dublin stood at less than 8 percent. They went from 13 to 1 TD in the capital. This is from a party that historically had 100,000 members when the country’s population was 3.5 million. It previously would have expected to get 40 percent of working class votes. Political dynasties that have controlled constituencies for decades are gone and places that have returned Fianna Fáil TDs (MPs) since the 1920s are now looking elsewhere.

The Irish Green Party, which had slavishly propped up the Fianna Fáil government in coalition, was decimated at the polls and now has no member in parliament.

The Irish Labour Party vote rose massively. But its determined lack of radicalism means that it will not look to use that vote to campaign against austerity. Instead, it is likely to go into coalition with the bosses’ second preference party Fine Gael. Sinn Fein gained and looked set to be the biggest opposition party after getting around 18 percent of the vote.

The radical left made a significant breakthrough with the candidates who are part of the United Left Alliance.

Newly elected TDs in the Alliance include Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, Clare Daly of the Socialist Party, and Seamus Healy of the Tipperary Unemployed and Works Action Group.

Richard Boyd Barrett for the People before Profit Alliance and Joan Collins of the People before Profit Alliance and could both be elected, as the counting continues. Other members of the United Left Alliance polled strongly but are unlikely to win a seat.

The vote was so close in Richard Boyd Barrett’s Dún Laoghaire constituency that a recount has been called for tomorrow.

And here's the essential background.