Another student guest blog, this time on Ireland and their party system.
The recent 2011 election in Ireland has brought a noticeable shift to the political orientation of the Dáil Éireann, or lower house in parliament. This shift is a result of the citizen’s discontent towards the government, particularly the majority party Fianna Fáil, and their response towards the economic crisis that currently engulfs the country today. Political parties are capitalizing on this opportunity by attempting to appeal to voters and it worked. Voters have made it clear at the polls that they want change and a government that is better equipped to save them from this economic whirlpool. This change manifested with the election of a new majority party, the Fine Gael and bringing unprecedented support to different political parties. (O’Clery 1).
In the Dáil, there are only four political parties that have received at least 5 or more seats. At the top there is the Fine Gael, which received 36.1% of the popular vote and gained 75 seats in parliament, which is nearly half the parliament’s 166 seats. In second is the Labour Party with 19.4% of the popular vote and 37 seats in parliament. And fallen from its glory in third place is the Fianna Fáil, with 17.4% of the popular vote and 19 seats in parliament, and lastly Sinn Féin, with 9.9% of the popular vote and 14 seats. Independents gained significant support in this last election, gaining 12.6% of the popular vote and 15 seats, ten more seats in parliament since 2007 (Ireland 1).
These parties vary in their direction and are classified into different party families. Along the European political spectrum, which is not identical to the spectrum found in the United States, the leftist parties have a socialistic ideology that includes heavy government intervention and support of a welfare state. The right-wing parties are more free-market oriented and generally want less government intervention in the lives of citizens. Along the spectrum are different political families on which political parties model their ideologies (Crepaz and Steiner 16-19). In Ireland, the two parties that have held the majority in its history, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are considered center-right parties. The difference is that the Fianna Fáil is a Liberal Conservatism group and the Fine Gael is a Christian Democrat party.
Of the remaining parties to discuss, both the Labour Party and the Sinn Féin are left-wing groups and the Independents are in the middle. The Labour Party is classified as a Social Democratic Party and the Sinn Féin are a Republican group. (Ireland 1). As for the Independents, they are divided among themselves into three different groups, all with dissimilar political aspirations including those who are in the middle, those who lean towards the left and those who are support of the government whenever the government supports their individual interests (O’Clery 3).
For a quick visual of Ireland’s political parties…
The paradigm shift within the Dáil has brought little support to Ireland’s economic turmoil, but the next election will not be taking place for another four years. (Ireland 1). That gives Ireland’s political parties plenty of time to make the Fine Gael look bad and attempt another seizure of authority in the parliament and to control the government’s legislation and decision-making power.
Crepaz, Markus M. L., and JuÌˆrg Steiner. European Democracies. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 2011. Print.
“Ireland.” Parties and Elections in Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. <http://www.parties-and-elections.de/ireland.html>.
O’Clery, Conor. “Irish Election: Rise of the Independents .” Global Post. N.p., 12 Feb. 2011. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. <http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/ireland/110210/irish-election-independent-candidates>.