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  • Sinn Fein took 24.5 percent of the first-preference votes, almost doubling on its 2016 results and besting the two long-dominant parties.

    Sinn Fein took 24.5 percent of the first-preference votes, almost doubling on its 2016 results and besting the two long-dominant parties. | Photo: Sinn Fein

Published 10 February 2020

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have continuously ruled out governing with Sinn Fein and have said they will look to smaller parties to form a coalition or minority government.

In a historic win, the left-wing Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein obtained the majority of the popular vote in Saturday’s general election, disrupting a 100-year-old duopoly of power between right-wing parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

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“Sinn Fein has won the election. We have won the popular vote,” the party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald said Monday as final counting is underway.

With full results expected late on Monday or Tuesday, the leftists took 24.5 percent of the first-preference votes, almost doubling on its 2016 results and besting the two long-dominant parties. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael received 22.2 and 20.9 percent of the votes respectively. 

"It seems that we have now a three-party system," Fine Gael leader and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the counting center for his Dublin West constituency said. 

Sinn Fein’s proposals for tackling Ireland’s housing and healthcare system crisis proved a powerful draw for young voters in a country that is still reeling from the 2008 global financial crisis.

However, this win may not result in Sinn Fein becoming the biggest party in Ireland's next Dail (Parliament), as the country implements a single transferable vote system and since the leftist party fielded too few candidates - just 42 candidates for the 160 seats contested -, it will likely translate to 37 seats.

With more than three-quarters of the seats in parliament filled, Fine Gael will take 29 and Fianna Fail 27. As no party is likely to reach the 80 seats needed for a majority, a coalition government will be the now long process ahead for Ireland.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have continuously ruled out governing with Sinn Fein and have said they will look to smaller parties to form a coalition or minority government. This means it will come down to Sinn Fein’s ability to reach agreements with likely allies such as the Greens (11), Labour (6), Solidarity (5), and some local independent candidates. 

The leftist party, which is both active in Ireland and Northern Ireland, has been a major player in the country’s politics, especially for its inflexible position on a united Ireland. 

Sinn Fein has been closely tied to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a designation used by several paramilitary organizations, fighting for all of Ireland to be an independent republic, free from British rule. 

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