FF/PDs to fall short by 10 seats, FG gains
DANIEL McCONNELL FIANNA Fail and the Progressive Democrats will not take enough seats to retain power in the election, while the chances of a FF-Labour coalition appear the most likely outcome, according to a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown-IMS poll.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is expected to announce the election date on Thursday and his handling of the campaign over the next four weeks will be crucial in determining whether or not he will remain in power.
For the second IMS poll in a row, Fianna Fail's party support has slipped one point, this time from 39 per cent to 38 per cent while the PDs, at 4 per cent, have also dropped by one point. Fine Gael's support has gone up one point since January to 23 per cent, while Labour remains static on 12. The Green Party (6 per cent) has picked up one point since the last IMS poll. Sinn Fein has also picked up one point.
The lead held by the coalition of FF and the PDs (42 per cent) over Fine Gael and Labour (35 per cent) is now just seven points, down three since January. If the Green Party was to be included with FG and Labour, that lead is cut to just one point.
Using data from the nationwide poll, the Sunday Independent is predicting that Fianna Fail and the PDs will fall well short of an overall majority. According to our predictions, which were compiled using first preference votes and adjusted to take into account the impact of the PR system, FF will get 69 seats and the PDs four seats, meaning the Government parties would still be 10 short of the overall majority figure of 83.
The poll's results are likely to cause grave concern in Fianna Fail who have failed to boost their ratings like the other parties after their Ard Fheiseanna. According to the figures, Fine Gael would take 41 seats, up 10 since their crushing defeat in 2002 and a vindication of Enda Kenny's leadership. Labour would take 20 seats, the Greens would take 10, up from six seats in 2002 and Sinn Fein would increase their seat total from five to nine. However, Independents expect to take 13 seats, and their support could have an impact on who forms the next government.
Fine Gael and Labour between them would also not be able to form a government with only 61 seats. Even with the Greens, they are still 12 short of the overall majority.
For Fine Gael to take power and Enda Kenny to become Taoiseach, it would need Labour, the Greens, Sinn Fein and the PDs to do a deal or rely on all 13 Independents for support, which is unlikely.
If Labour says no to FF, then Bertie Ahern would have to do a deal with the Greens and rely on a number of Independents to secure a third term, which is possible.
Despite all the pre-election talk to the contrary from Pat Rabbitte and others in Labour, come election day the possibility of a coalition with FF with a comfortable majority is attractive for both parties. It would give Fianna Fail a third consecutive term and Labour the first bite of the cherry since the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-Nineties.
Calculating the seats totals was done on a first preference basis, as was the IMS poll. The figures were then adjusted to take account of the Proportional Representation/Single Transferable Vote system, which produces a 'seats bonus' effect for larger parties.
Conducted at over 100 stations nationwide last Monday and Tuesday, the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown-IMS poll sampled 1,082 adults over the age of 18 throughout all constituencies around the country.
As in the 2002 election, the health services and the state of Irish hospitals is the number one election issue, with 36 per cent saying it is the issue most likely to influence their vote. The next most important issue is law and order and crime, cited by one in five of those surveyed.
The poll also shows satisfaction with the Government is down three points from 51 per cent in January to 48 per cent, while dissatisfaction (49 per cent) is up four points.
All the Opposition party leaders saw increases in their job satisfaction ratings, while Bertie Ahern and Michael McDowell both saw their numbers fall. Mr Ahern dropped by three points from 58 per cent to 55 per cent while the embattled PD leader Michael McDowell dropped from 42 points in January to 39.
SF's Gerry Adams is the most popular party head with a satisfaction rating of 60 per cent. Enda Kenny is up 8 points to 47 per cent while Pat Rabbitte and Trevor Sargent both received 4 per cent increases in their ratings.