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Fine Gael to fall short of an overall majority

FINE Gael will fall just short of being able to head up a single-party government, a new Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll reveals.

But Fianna Fail is heading for a complete meltdown in the 2011 General Election, with polling day just two days away.

Fine Gael and Labour are on track to form the next government, with up to 115 seats in the next Dail, despite spending the past three weeks attacking each others' policies.

A Fine Gael and Labour coalition is the preferred option of the public for the next government -- well ahead of a Fine Gael overall majority.

Support for Fine Gael is on 38pc -- up one point since last weekend -- putting Mr Kenny on track to become Taoiseach in a coalition with Mr Gilmore.

Labour, on 20pc, has stabilised after losing ground and will also make substantial gains, but the party has dramatically underperformed over the course of the campaign.

The poll findings came as Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and Micheal Martin clashed in the final leaders' debate of the campaign last night.

Sinn Fein is on 11pc of the vote, down one point, but putting it on track to more than double its seat numbers.

Independents on 16pc, up two points, have held steady throughout the campaign.

The Green Party, on just 1pc support, will struggle to win a single seat.

But Fianna Fail is down two points to 14pc, reflecting a failure to spark a recovery.

The poll figures are adjusted to take account of the 11pc of 'don't knows'.

Slightly more than one in 10 voters are still undecided, down from 15pc last week, but among those who have made their decision, the trends remain the same.

Fianna Fail will spend the next 48 hours desperately trying to get its core support out to vote in an effort to salvage some seats.

If the current polling figures are replicated in Friday's election, the party could be left with fewer than 20 seats.

Mr Martin's party won't be able to bank on second-preference votes to save a number of TDs. When asked how they intend to transfer their vote, just 11pc list Fianna Fail as their second-preference choice, compared to 21pc for Fine Gael and 24pc for Labour.

The Green Party gets 3pc of second-preference votes and Sinn Fein 8pc. Independents again figure strongly on transfers, taking 22pc of second preferences.

The findings indicate if Fianna Fail candidates are not ahead on the first count, they won't climb up on subsequent counts.

Fianna Fail is struggling most of all in Dublin, where it is attracting just 10pc of the vote -- the same as Sinn Fein, which is only competitive in about half of constituencies. Fine Gael, on 35pc in Dublin, is ahead of Labour, on 29pc.

Fine Gael is also dominant in the rest of Leinster, Munster and Connaught-Ulster, where the party is placed to get almost one in every two votes cast.

Approval for party leaders has fluctuated again. Ironically, the only leader not to have dropped in this latest poll is Mr Martin, who has gone up eight points, making him the most popular leader.

One of the country's leading political science experts, NUI Maynooth's Dr Adrian Kavanagh, said if the results of today's opinion poll were repeated on polling day, Fianna Fail would be left with just 17 Dail seats. Fine Gael would capture a record 78 seats; Labour 37 TDs; Sinn Fein 14; and Independents 20 seats.

According to Dr Kavanagh's estimates, the Green Party would face a complete wipeout.

In terms of the preferred potential government, one in three would prefer a Fine Gael-Labour coalition government, versus one in five wanting a Fine Gael majority.

Labour supporters are more enthusiastic about a coalition, and only one-in-five Fine Gael supporters want the party to win an overall majority.

The figures are compared to Millward Brown Lansdowne poll carried out for the 'Sunday Independent' last weekend.

The poll was conducted among a sample of 1,034 interviewed on a face to face basis in the home at 93 sampling points throughout all constituencies.

Interviewing on the poll was carried out between Saturday, February 19, and Monday, February 21, 2011.

The poll was conducted in accordance with the guidelines set by ESOMAR and AIMRO (European and Irish Market and Opinion Research governing bodies).

Irish Independent