Ireland has begun voting in a parliamentary election that could see the incumbent pro-austerity coalition out of power. But can opposition parties capitalize on unemployment and growing anger against austerity taxes?
Polls suggest that Prime Minister Enda Kenny's coalition government may struggle to form a government for a second term.
Kenny's Fine Gael and its junior coalition partner, the Labour Party, have lost considerable public support due to their austerity measures. Their combined support has fallen to 33 to 37 percent. Finance Minister Michael Noonan believes they would need at least 41 percent to form a government.
Many voters are wary of rising poverty and homelessness in the country despite government's claims of a speedy economic recovery.
"The last time I voted for them but never again," 72-year-old Silvia Doran told AFP news agency. "They took some money off our pension three times. Then they gave us a house tax and then a water tax. How can we pay that out of the pension?" she asked.
Analysts say it is unlikely that opposition parties can capitalize on growing dissatisfaction with the government's economic policies. The Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit and left-wing republican party Sinn Fein, however, are expected to win more seats in the Dail Eireann, the lower house of parliament.
"I think after the election, what we will see is potentially a hung Dail," said Richard Colwell, head of the Red C polling group.
"It looks increasingly unlikely that Fine Gael and Labour are going to be able to form a government on their own," he added.
PM Kenny might cobble together a coalition of small parties and independent lawmakers if he fails to win a majority in Friday's vote.
shs/rc (AFP, Reuters)