Saturday, February 26, 2011

Irish Election

Watching, as an Irish citizen with no great party-political affiliation, with some degree of pride the results coming in from the Irish general election. Following the largest economic reversal of any industrialised country, the main ruling party and the junior government partner have understandably been decimated electorally, with the junior party returning no seats at all and the main ruling party becoming the third largest party in the State from a position of being the largest for almost all the history of the State. However, the main beneficiaries are the main centre-right party and the main centre-left party who almost certainly will now form a government together with a commanding majority. There has been no move whatsoever to things like anti-European sentiment parties, anti-immigration parties, and so on. Both parties are in favour of reducing the deficit, with the largest party being probably more inclined to reduce it more quickly and with more emphasis on cuts rather than taxes. The election seems to be yielding some idiosyncratic independent candidates who have done surprisingly well but nothing that could be seen as ominous in terms of a move toward extremism in Irish society. I think in general, the election is showing a mature Western European democracy trying to come to grips in a sensible way with a major economic crisis. I looking forward to discussing many of their policies on this blog and other fora as the new government begins its tough job.


Pidge said...

I agree to some extent, especially in relation to the lack of a drift towards extremism.

That said, I find it difficult to call voting to punish "mature". The focus of any election should and has to be about who to put in: I fear that people put in Fine Gael for the sole reason that they're not Fianna Fáil.

That's not the fault of the parties (entirely), it's the fault of people voting to punish.

Rob Gillanders said...

SF would be fairly anti-EU...its pretty much in their name!

Mark McG said...

From the IT:

In Frosses today, a local man enjoying a sunny morning stroll said the village’s best-known resident would be all right in time - she had a good pension. Bucking the national trend, he had voted for Ms Coughlan despite being a lifelong Fine Gael supporter. Why?

“Because she called to the house. Nobody else did,” he said. But would he vote for her next time around? “It depends if she calls to the house,” he smiled.

Liam Delaney said...

Dont have a strong opinion on the shift to SF Rob. They got about 3 to 4 per cent extra vote share and, combined with good strategy and a better bounce of the ball in marginal seats than last time, they have got a much bigger seat count. I don't interpret the extra share they have got as a move toward a more extreme Irish electorate.

From a wide view I think people from outside looking in should see that there is a going to be a government with a huge majority that has a moderate platform and that politically there hasn't been a potentially dangerous reaction to an economic crisis. This, other things being equal, is a very good sign.

Liam Delaney said...

I don't neccesarily think its irrational to punish a longserving government following an economic collapse. Even leaving aside whether FF caused it or not, it was always going to be very difficult for politicians so heavily involved in the policies that lead up to this to be effective afterwards.

On Mark's point, local issues and basic canvassing are definitely important in ireland or indeed anywhere. In some sense, the young people voting for Obama because he had so effectively brought them on board through social media are not that different from the lady you talk about in the post.

When I talked about maturity and being somewhat proud, I guess I just mean I am really delighted that nobody made (or tried to from what I can see) any ground with anti-immigrant arguments or with overly simplistic default arguments, or even with overly simplistic deficit arguments. If anything, Fine Gael seem to have benefited from being more explicity about deficit reduction than Labour. All that points to me to an electorate that has a strong appetite to get things sorted out.

I have to admit I did not see Fianna Fail getting so wiped out. I honestly thought there was a hidden FF vote that might not answer polls but would turn out on the day. I should have just stuck to the polls! One TD in Dublin for Fianna Fail is just gobsmacking, one (as far as I can see) in places like Clare and Donegal. It was definitely history last night.

Liam Delaney said...

One narrative that seems to be shaping up in the international press is that the new leader is going to immediately seek to renegotiate the bailout. This is true but it should be put in context. FG seems to be looking at talking about a reduction in the interest rate of the European component of the deal. Every credible national and international economist that I have read has argued that the EU component interest rate was too high and that this is counterproductive as you fail to gather confidence in the Irish economy and thus increase the default risk. It would be a shame if this was seen as some immediate move at default. Kenny would be insane not to immediately go and explore the options on this. It is to noone's benefit to have a loan arrangement that is not workable.

Rob Gillanders said...

I agree for the most part but there are a good number of angry-party TDs now and a big chunk of them had fairly simplistic platforms. I agree that it doesn't signify any move to extremism. Probably, "a move to exasperation" would be more apt.

Liam Delaney said...

I dont know what the election of people like Mick Wallace, Shane Ross, Richard Boyd-Barrett(who I think is in) and so on signifies. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what they do. No harm at all in a democracy having some new faces in the parliament. Some of them will fizzle out but there might be the makings of an alternativ opposition part in there somewhere.

Enda Hargaden said...

Spot on, Liam. There's a great letter in the IT today: "With our “quirky” PR voting system we were able to protest in a far more efficient way than through wanton destruction... In politics the Irish people should continue to speak softly because unlike other countries, the people carry a very big stick."

@Pidge's "I find it difficult to call voting to punish "mature". The focus of any election should and has to be about who to put in: I fear that people put in Fine Gael for the sole reason that they're not Fianna Fáil"

In a repeated game, there can be endogeneity between punishment and future actions. No Irish government will take the Charlie McCreevy approach to fiscal policy ever again. Some sympathy for the Greens is understandable, but their annihilation will at least serve as a stark warning to future governments about just how ruthlessly the electorate will punish mishandling of the economy.