Coalition hopes lower turnout will save them from backlash
THE Government will be on tenterhooks this morning to learn whether a lower voter turnout in the Super Friday Elections has spared it from an anti-austerity backlash.
Voters descended on polling booths in droves early in the evening in what seemed to be a sign that an angry electorate might send the Government a strong message following three years of austerity budgets.
High turnouts were reported in several polling stations for the local, European and two by-elections.
However, that numbers waned later and it seemed that that the final turnout might not reach the 58pc mark seen at the last local election, when the Fianna Fail-led government was punished for its handling of the economic crisis.
Coalition parties Fine Gael and Labour would likely suffer bigger losses the higher the turnout and so will hope that voters have stayed at home. The turning tide of support for Independents and Sinn Fein could rise even higher as the public hits out at the Government.
It had been predicted voter apathy would lead to a poor showing at the ballot boxes but NUI Maynooth Geography lecturer Adrian Kavanagh said early indications suggested a high turnout. "We always get this voter apathy talk, we got the same before the last general election," he said. "But I don't think we are looking at a low-turnout election."
Five continuous years of austerity budgets and an almost constant stream of garda controversies since the start of the year led to widespread dissatisfaction with the Government.
The recent discretionary medical card fiasco became a huge election issue and forced the Government into an embarrassing U-turn.
Opinion polls published ahead of the elections showed the Labour Party is set to be wiped out in the local authorities.
Eamon Gilmore's party will struggle to take a seat in Europe and has no chance in either the Dublin West or Longford/Westmeath by-elections.
Fine Gael will fare better once the ballot boxes are opened but will not retain the number of council seats it took at the last local election.
By 8.30pm last night, turnout in the Dublin city area stood at an average of 36pc. However, there was wide fluctuations across the different electoral areas. In Pembroke in Dublin, there was a 47pc turnout while in Ballymun 34pc of voters showed up. Rathmines was even lower at just 24pc.
In Dublin-west, where voters also had a by-election to contend with, there was a 30pc turnout by early evening.
The north inner city centre stood at around 22pc an hour before polls closed.
In Ireland South, turnout at the last local and European elections was just under 62pc and a similar figure is expected this time around.
There was huge variations across the Midlands North West constituency where turnout was expected to finish up around the mid 50s. A 56pc turnout was expected by close of polls in the Longford Westmeath constituency where there was also a by-election.
There was less division among official party predictions. Fianna Fail said the electorate was on course for a 56 or 57pc turnout while Sinn Fein said 58pc – the same as last year. The government parties Fine Gael and Labour both predicted turnout in the early 50s.
Heavy rain and high winds in some parts of the country led to low turnout, with Kildare faring the worst.
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