Final results from Ireland's general election show the outgoing coalition has won the most votes, but has fallen short of a majority. PM Kenny is now expected to hold inter-party talks in an attempt to form a government.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael (Family of the Irish) party secured 50 out of 158 parliamentary seats, according to final election results released Thursday.
Fianna Fail, also known as the Republican Party, was in second place with 44 seats, followed by anti-austerity Sinn Fein with 23 seats. Fine Gael's coalition partner, Labour, won just seven seats, down from 37 in the 2011 elections.
The results mean center-right Fine Gael remains the largest party in Ireland's parliament, although it came in about 30 seats shy of the 80 needed to form a majority in parliament. The country now faces what are expected to be lengthy inter-party negotiations to form a new government.
Analysts say the two most likely outcomes are an unprecedented alliance between historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail or a new election. While the two parties have dominated Irish politics for eight decades, they've never shared power.
Eoin O'Malley from the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University told Irish broadcaster RTE that a Fine Gael minority government supported on an issue-by-issue basis by Fianna Fail and others was another likely outcome.
Open to talks with rival
On Wednesday, Kenny indicated for the first time that he would be willing to hold talks with Fianna Fail about the possibility of forming a new government.
"The numbers in the Dail (parliament) in the way that they're now falling through make it difficult to put forward a proposition for government," Kenny told journalists.
"As the leader of the largest party, and as the Taoiseach (prime minister) it's my responsibility to work to see that that process is put in place, and that includes talking to the Fianna Fail party."
The swing to smaller, anti-austerity parties in Ireland's election, reflecting disillusionment with traditional parties and widespread discontent over austerity measures, echoes recent votes in other EU countries like Spain and Portugal.
nm/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)