Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Irish Presidential Election Analysis

Last Thursday, October 27, Ireland held a presidential election and the results were officially published on Saturday. According to the Irish Times the results were a follows for the three leading candidates: Michael D. Higgins (Irish Labour Party) 39.6%, Sean Gallagher (Independent but unofficial Fianna Fail candidate) 28.5%, and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein) 13.7%. The remaining four candidates together received 18.2% with none of them reaching seven percent. 

Martin McGuinness proved to be the kingmaker by accusing Gallagher on Monday night during a candidates' forum of taking a Fianna Fail contribution from a rich donor at an event a few years before. The accusation caught Gallagher off guard and he seemed to obfuscate in front of the cameras. He immediately went from being the frontrunner at 40 percent in the polls to the leading challenger. But by doing so McGuinness probably embittered a core Fianna Fail electorate, which will not forgive him nor Sinn Fein in the future. Sinn Fein slightly improved its standing over last year's general election, but received much less than the 14-18 percent that Mary Lou McDonald was predicting in the final week or the 20 percent that McGuinness polled at the start of the race. In comparison, Fianna Fail's unofficial candidate attracted a significant improvement in those constituencies that both FF and Sinn Fein contested last year.

The electorate seemed to demonstrate that it considered McGuinness to be more a paramilitary (Irish speak for terrorist) than a peacemaker and to be a foreigner as well. This confirmed trends demonstrated by other Northerners who have attempted political careers in the South, usually with Fine Gael. Northerners can be elected and have a career, but they won't be party leaders or presidents--except in Sinn Fein, which is predominantly a Northern party.

Fine Gael's Gaye Mitchell turned in an embarrassing performance for the party, but he was probably a poor choice. There was a reputation of less than honesty about him, which is reminiscent of Brian Lenihan Sr., the Fianna Fail candidate against Mary Robinson in 1990. The result did not hurt FF in subsequent general elections and the same will probably be true for Fine Gael, which is now Ireland's leading party after more than three-quarters of a century as the second largest party.

The result is also unlikely to affect McGuinness's stature in Northern Ireland where he returns to his role as Deputy First Minister after three weeks leave. In the North most unionists regard him as both former terrorist and peacemaker. McGuinness was reportedly reluctant to make the challenge for the presidency, but gave in to his party's draft.

For an analysis of the results of the election by the Irish Times see this article.  Or to avoid the archive charges go to the Ireland section of the website and look for the article entitled "Return of core Fianna Fail vote."

No comments:

Post a Comment