Sunday, December 19, 2010

Could it happen here - Government wipe-out?

Latest opinion polls in Ireland confirm the downward trend in popularity of both Fianna Fáil and Taoiseach Brian Cowen. A poll conducted for the Sunday Business Post indicates gains for Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, but losses for both Fianna Fáil and Labour. Although my firm belief that all politics is local, it appears that Fianna Fáil are heading for a major disaster at the next election early in the New Year. How bad could it be?

Former Canadian Prime
Minister Kim Campbell -
photo from Wikipedia.
In 1993 the Canadian Government, led by Canada's first woman Prime Minister Kim Campbell of the Conservative Party, faced a general election with ratings in the teens in opinion polls. Campbell's initial popularity (51% approval rating according to Gallup in August 1993), fell badly after a series of mistakes before and during the election campaign. Incredibly - the Conservatives lost 149 of their 151 seats, including Campbell's own seat. The Conservatives (now merged with the Alliance Party) never won more than 20 seats in any election since 1993 (Source: Wikipedia). The party has since changed its name to become the Progressive Canadian Party.

Now could this happen here? Most political pundits expect Fianna Fáil to lose at least one seat in constituencies where they currently hold two (that's about 30 seats). If the polls translate into seats, FF could be down to 25 seats. In the 1993 Canadian election, the first-past-the-post-system made the Conservatives election performance (they got 16% of the popular vote) even worse - so a repeat is unlikely here under our proportional representation (PR) system.

Brian Cowen - to follow
Kim Campbell into the
history books?
Photo from Wikipedia.
I also don't expect Brian Cowen to lose his seat - in fact I'd say that only Cowen, Willie O'Dea, and Séamus Kirk (out-going Ceann Comhairle/Speaker automatically returned) are the only FF TDs certain to retain their seats. All others are vulnerable. Nevertheless, PR will ensure at least 25 seats, and they'll probably do better than this. Add in "all politics is local", plus some "cute hoors" who will convince the electorate that they had nothing to do with the economic disaster, and there should be another few seats. Finally, I think that the number of FF TDs who have announced that they will not contest the next election will increase - this will give newer and younger candidates, untainted by the economic collapse, a better shot. Some will no doubt make it to the next Dáil. My overall prediction today: 35 ± 5 seats.

I think FF's biggest tactic in the Election is to say to people who voted for them the last time - "OK so you don't want to vote for us, but look around you - what is the alternative?". Here in the Dún Laoghaire constituency, where I will be voting for Mary Hanafin again, I look around and see Labour's Eamonn Gilmore - the magician without a wand! I've never voted Labour before, and see no reason to start now. (Voting for a party, any party, 'cos they are not Fianna Fáil, is not a reason for me to change). I also see the old man of the Fine Gael Party Séan Barrett (66 - he should retire) - nothing he has ever done will make me change my vote. We also have independent socialist Richard Boyd-Barrett (who came close to winning a seat in the last election) - not in a million years would I vote for him. The Greens  - 'nuff said!

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