General Election 2020 – my thoughts

Now that the counts have all completed and those candidates who successfully won seats in the 33rd Dáil prepare to discuss the formation of a new Government. One thing is clear, the formation of a Government will be difficult given the narrow margin between the three largest parties and the fact that no one party has a clear majority.

We are all aware the three largest parties are Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Fine Gael.

Fine Gael have always made it clear and still insist that Fine Gael and Sinn Féin will not govern together. It therefore sounds as if Fine Gael as the party with the fewest number of seats of the three will stand aside and allow other negotiations to happen first before they then come to the table in the event a Government is still not formed.

Sinn Féin have declared that they would prefer to explore the possibility of a left leaning Government that excludes Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but indicated they are open to working with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael if the a left leaning Government cannot be formed.

I will look at a number of possibilities for the formation of a Government to see where the seat numbers might sit. The magic number that a Government often looks to have in order to have a Dáil majority is 80 seats so I will be looking at who could come together to meet that number. I have laid out three options or possibilities for the formation of the next Irish Government based on what I think may work as a result of what parties are saying now or what they might have indicated during the General Election campaign.

Option 1: A left leaning Government

Firstly let us look at the left leaning option. There is Sinn Féin with 37 seats which is just shy of 50% of what they might need to form a Government. The leader of the Labour party did indicate during the campaign that Labour would not work with Sinn Féin. I am unclear what their position is now, but there appears to have been an attitude shift by some Sinn Féin members since they were deemed elected which might prevent Labour getting involved in this Government. Assuming Labour decline to be part of this Government approach, that is 6 seats that are not available for this option. It is also unlikely that Aontú would come into Government with Sinn Féin because of differences between the two leaders. The People Before Profit (PBP) are likely to be interested as there appears to be common ground between them and Sinn Féin. There is also a possibility that the Green Party and the Social Democrats could be persuaded to come into Government with Sinn Féin. We could also possibly add the sole elected Independents4Change member. Thus far a coalition of Sinn Féin (37 seats), PBP (5 seats), Green Party (12 seats), Social Democrats (6 seats), and Independents4Change (1 seat) would give us 61 seats. This leaves us short with only Independents to look to which make up 19 seats. All 19 Independents would bring the numbers to 80, however I believe Sinn Féin would feel extremely lucky if all Independents came on board. Independents are often not members of a political party for a reason. This reason being that their aims/policies/person manifestos can vary quite a bit. In my opinion the most Independents I would see agreeing to this form of Government is 15 which would give us a total of 75 seats.

75 seats might be seen as not enough, but assuming those forming the Government decided to try running with this number, there is still a very large number of Independents to try and find agreement with and then try to keep them in agreement and engaged in a programme of Government.

Option 2: A Fianna Fáil / Sinn Féin coalition with the support of a smaller party

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin combined would give us 75 seats which is only 5 seats short of the 80 seats that a Government would be looking to achieve. Some Fianna Fáil party members indicated they could not work with Sinn Féin, however it is thought in the media that the position of the Fianna Fáil party leader Michael Martin was perhaps softening towards working with Sinn Féin. This was before some Sinn Féin members appeared to demonstrate a alternate attitude to the one displayed before the election. Assuming Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin can find a way to work together, I have listed the possible smaller party options that would help them make up the seat shortfall.

Fianna Fáil / Sinn Féin and…

a) People Before Profit (PBP) 5 seats = 80 seats

b) Green Party 12 seats = 87 seats

c) Social Democrats 6 seats = 81 seats

d) Labour 6 seats = 81 seats

e) Independents with 19 seats in total, but let’s assume they can only get the agreement of up to 15 = 90 seats

Personally I do not believe the Labour and Independents options would work here. Labour may not want to be part of a Government with Sinn Féin and the getting agreement from Independents alone is difficult, but keeping them in agreement to ensure the Government stays together might be a bridge too far.

Option 3: A Fianna Fáil / Fine Gael / Labour / Aontú coalition

This is an option I thought of that would give us 80 seats in Government that I have not seen mentioned by any politician or in the media.

From my own perspective I think this is a possible coalition where there could possibly be the most common ground with which to hopefully find agreement. Fine Gael and Labour have been in Government before (most recently between 2011 and 2016) and Fianna Fáil recently supported Fine Gael during their minority Government from 2016 to 2020. I also think it might be easier to get the agreement of Aontú with this type of coalition than the Independents4Change who would possibly prefer a left leaning Government.

There are other coalition options being suggested in the media that I have not included here and there are possibly other options that have not been considered by anyone.

In my opinion, I believe the third option would be the one where agreement is most likely to be found and I believe it is one of the more stable coalition options. There are policies in the manifestos of Sinn Féin, Green Party, People Before Profit (PBP), and Social Democrats that would be economically damaging with the policies of Sinn Féin and Green Party likely to cause the most severe damage. I also believe it will be too difficult to find agreement or common ground among the Independents.

Of course one very likely conclusion which cannot be ruled out is that if no agreement can be found from any of the approaches above or any other approaches that I have not mentioned is the possibility of the electorate being called back to the polls for another General Election.

What actually happens is anyone’s guess. Only time will tell.

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