Political parties preparing for early elections

Reports in the Sunday Independent indicate a general election could be called in the first half of 2018

Political parties preparing for early elections

Leo Varadkar arrives at Aras An Uachtaran to receive his Seal of Office from President Michael D. Higgins after his confirmation as Taoiseach, 27-06-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/ RollingNews

Reports this morning indicate that the government is preparing for an early election next spring.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are gearing up for a snap election – well in advance of the scheduled end to the party’s confidence and supply agreement.

The Sunday Independent reports that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has put his party on a full election footing and established a secret election “war council” tasked with ensuring that Government policy has a “distinctive Fine Gael focus.”

The paper notes that the council – made up of ministers and senior party officials – held its first behind-closed-doors meeting in July and is due to meet on a monthly basis once the Dáil reconvenes in September.

Confidence and supply

Sunday Independent political correspondent Philip Ryan said it seems there is very little trust among political circles that the confidence and supply arrangement will actually last – but warned that there is no appetite for an election this side of Christmas.

He said that, based on current polls, no party could expect to secure an overall majority.

“I think we would be looking at either a coalition or some sort of similar minority government situation after the next election,” he said.

“The polls show that the public is fragmented.

“We are in a situation of a two-and-a-half party system – Sinn Féin have replaced the Labour Party in that system at this stage.

“It is hard to see how either party, Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, would get an overall majority.”

October budget

The paper reports that Fianna Fáil will push to exert a strong influence on the Budget in October - with a potential 2018 election in mind.

The party will seek to cut the USC rate, extend mortgage relief for another year, reduce the threshold for the drug payment scheme and introduce a home carers’ tax credit.

Fine Gael members will be asked to vote on a number of changes to the party’s rulebook – including a new policy allowing people to join the party without signing up to local branches.

The change is reportedly modelled on French President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party.