View Full Version : Electoral shenanigans in the Emerald Isle

02-23-2016, 07:07 AM
Three days until the polls open in the General Election for the Dáil (Lower House of the Irish Parliament). After eight years of economic crisis (caused largely by Irish and German bankers, but largely blamed on politicians by the populace; they certainly didn't help), we are witnessing a fairly strong recovery, albeit one that could easily be knocked back by international "events". So - the present Fine Gael ("Clan of the Gael") Party (centre-right) and the Labour Party (centre-left) should be set for a triumphant return ? Well, a return, anyway ? Not a bit of it, on present indications.

The present government's strategy for this one seemed, for a long time, very clear. Slogans like "Keep the Recovery Going" and "Avoid Uncertainty" were circulating long before the election was actually called. Fine Gael and Labour had announced a voting pact to maximize their impact in our multi-seat constituencies employing the single transferrable vote voting system. The general message was one of gradual expansion of government spending and restoration of cuts in salaries and benefits, strictly governed by a continuing tight Exchequer position. Opinion polling made it clear that the momentum expected for the governing parties was not materializing, in particular, for the minority Labour Party. This may be why, immediately after the election was called, the majority government party, fell into the temptation to climb on the snake oil wagon, promising tax cuts and (some) spending expansion based on projections of the available "fiscal space" - a proposition that seemed to the electorate at the same time improbable, confusing (in view of the established "steady as she goes" message), and suspicious.

The Labour Party, under the leadership of Joan ("Moan") Burton, seemed hamstrung by the need to avoid cutting across their coalition partners. Also, Labour has not been helped by the departure from the scene (one might say "purging") of a number of key party spokespersons, leaving huge pressure on Moan herself to project the party message (whatever that may be). As a result, opinion polls are indicating that both government parties are becalmed, with Labour's popularity in particular shrinking to a point that they stand to get a severe hammering this Friday coming. Mind you, Sinn Féin ("formerly" the political wing of the Provisional IRA) are similarly becalmed, not least because of the painfully evident inability of their leader - Gerry "Grizzly" Adams - to understand economics, sums, or even his own party's policies. Meanwhile, the vote of new, minor political parties and independents, ranging from the stockbroker Right to left-wingers so loony as to be beyond the imagination of most Americans, far from shrinking, has consolidated and even increased. Also, the fortunes of the old "natural party of government", Fianna Fáil ("Soldiers of Destiny") has not so much surged, but crept forward, quite a success for the Party blamed by much of the electorate for its role in the crash. Depending on how they play the aftermath, they may achieve a result going a long way to rescue them from threatened extinction.

Hard to know what all this means in societal terms. One relic of the economic crash has been a total collapse of public confidence in establishment political parties. Even those, a clear majority, who will vote for the established parties - Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and even Sinn Féin - are likely to do so with little affection or trust. Is this a Good Thing, at least to the extent that it shows a new, but strong aversion to snake oil ? On the other hand, a substantial minority will vote for new, minor parties and independents who show no consistency in their political stances. Whether the turnout for this group really reflects the sentiments of these voters - other than their loathing for the traditional options, is beyond comprehension.

The problem with all this is that it may prove very difficult to form any stable government from a post-electoral mess in which no coherent party or group have enough Deputies to form a reasonably solid two or three-party coalition. Single party government (something we have not seen for some time) is quite out of the question. There is an increasing suspicion that many voters now favour the "appalling vista" - for the parties concerned - a coalition or other mutual support arrangement between our two centre-right parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. There is little logical reason why this should not take place; after all, both are managerialist centre-right parties whose real differences are historical, going back to the great Republican "split" that led to the Irish Civil War (early 1920s). However, History matters a lot Over Here, as do suspicions that either or both parties would lose their identity in the event that they coalesced. It looks as if the present government should have persevered with its simple stability message - bookies' odds on a second General Election within the year are shortening. Great fun. JR.

03-22-2016, 08:29 AM
(SIGH). Our Dáil (Lower House of Parliament) is meeting today for the second time since the General Election some weeks back, having failed at its first meeting to elect a Taoiseach (Prime Minister). No election today; it will be devoted to making "statements" on various matters, an entirely pointless process. The next meeting is set to make another effort to put a Taoiseach, and government, in place. Nobody is betting on this being successful.

The outcome of the election was, unfortunately, as predicted. The two main (centre right) parties forming some sort of understanding to allow a government with reasonable prospects of passing its legislation appears to be the only real prospect of forming a government. However, notwithstanding prayerful effusions about the "national interest" (almost a joke here, outside political circles), the two major parties are involved in an improbable spider dance, in which neither is willing to concede party-political interests, refusing to talk to each other about any sort of arrangement and attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of support among minor parties and independents (who range from the pragmatic to the totally loony) sufficient to elect their candidate as Taoiseach. Same old, same old ...

At the same time, bombs are going off in Brussels, the migrant crisis continues to defy satisfactory solution by the European Union, economic/financial/banking crisis threatens on a number of fronts ... We could do with a stable government, but little chance on the basis of the election result and the shenanigans since. Yours from "the most distressful country", JR.