Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny today called parliamentary elections for February 26 in a poll that could see disillusioned voters turn away from established parties to back political mavericks.
“I am seeking a dissolution of Dail Eireann (parliament) today with the election to be held on February 26th,” Kenny tweeted before going to President Michael Higgins for formal authorisation.
The two rival centre-right parties that have taken turns leading Irish governments since 1932, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, have seen their combined dominance among voters recede as support for independent politicians, new parties and anti-austerity groups has risen.
The eurozone nation has the highest economic growth rate in the European Union - 7.0 per cent in the first nine months of last year - but many voters are disillusioned after years of sacrifices and a financial crisis that has discredited Ireland’s elite.
Polls indicate the current coalition government led by Fine Gael’s Kenny with junior centre-left party Labour will struggle to gain the minimum 80 seats required to form a majority for a second term.
The vote follows an election in Portugal that returned a fragile ruling alliance, and political deadlock in Spain since a December election returned no clear majority that has fuelled fears of risks to the eurozone countries’ economic recovery.
Kenny and Labour leader Joan Burton insist that a vote for their parties is the only way to ensure “stability” and protect economic growth.