My predictions (early on the day of the count)…
Predicted result of election to 30th Dáil
76 48 16 8 7 1 10
Final result of election to 30th Dáil
78* 51 20 6 4 2 5
Comments: Both FF and FG performed better than I expected. Labour’s seats held up remarkably well too. All of the smaller parties got hammered (or squeezed!), most especially the PDs and Independents. It was a throw-back election, similar to the pre-1990s status quo, or the 2 1/2 party system.
In terms of a government, the number required to elect a Taoiseach is 83 votes (for the barest of majorities, and only assuming that a non-government TD becomes Ceann Comhairle (or chair of the Dail)). Fianna Fail look almost certain to be that party. There are basically 5 options open:
1) Realign with the PDs and gather together some independents. This would be a minority government with independent backing (80 seats + 3 independent votes). Bertie loves this idea, because he could give Harney the health ministry and continue with the status quo of the last 10 years. He knows that they’ll play ball with him and are in no position to dictate terms. The PDs look like a busted flush. They’ll see this option as an amazingly good result considering their dramatic loss of seats. The only problem would be the continual dependence on independent votes. Of the 5 independents, only 2 are natural FFs, 1 is an ex-FG minister, and there are 2 socialists. So the deal would be with the 2 FFs and one of the socialists: either Finian McGrath or Tony Gregory. McGrath is already on the record as saying he wants a deal. It’ll be done, no doubt about it. Probability: 60%
2) Fianna Fail to enter coalition with the Greens (producing 84 seats). The Greens have major intellectual and political difficulties with FF and would be involved in internal squabbles. Also, FF would find it hard to embrace some of the Green policies esp in relation to road building and Shannon. Likelihood: 15%
3) Fianna Fail could enter coalition with the Labour party, producing a very stable seat count of 98. However, Labour would expect 4 or 5 cabinet seats for their support, would have to break their agreement with Fine Gael, and would expect to have to elect a new leader. But with the carrot of government dangling before them, these difficulties can be overcome. Probability: 25%
4) Fine Gael (!!) might cobble together a coalition of Labour, the Greens, the PDs, and some independents. The goverment would have 79 seats and depend on the votes of 4 independents. Not only is this option extremely unlikely (the PDs + Greens is the unlikeliest combination of all), it would be unstable, directionless, and prone to internal squabbling. FF would hardly allow this to happen. Basically, this option is highly unlikely: Probability 0.01%.
5) Finally, there might be a FF/SF coalition. Seeing as there are so many other good options for FF, this is unlikely too. Probability: 1%