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Ireland's prime minister paves way for elections

The minister has dissolved Ireland's parliament paving the way for a vote in February. While his ruling Fine Gael party will likely do well, anti-austerity parties and independent politicans are expected to make gains.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Wednesday announced that Ireland will hold a parliamentary election on February 26 that is likely to witness anti-austerity parties and independent politicians gain in the lower house.

"Taoiseach Enda Kenny has dissolved the Dail (parliament). The election will be held on the 26th of February," the ruling Fine Gael party said in a tweet, referring to Ireland's title for head of government.

Polls published by Ireland's national broadcaster RTE at the end of January show Fine Gael ahead with 31 percent, while coalition partner Labour party is expected to garner 8 percent.

Opposition parties Fianna Fail, once Ireland's largest party, and Sinn Fein, associated with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), are reported to be polling around 18 percent.

Meanwhile, smaller opposition parties, such as the Socialists and Greens, are expected to garner a total of some 24 percent of the vote, marking a significant shift from Irish voters leaning towards anti-austerity and independent parties.

Since 2011, the prime minister's Fine Gael, along with Labour, have steered the country from the brink of bankruptcy to Europe's fastest rate of economic growth after exiting its bailout in 2013 and repaying its loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) early.

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ls/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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