Next Irish government in limbo as lawmakers convene for vote
Ireland's new parliament convened for the first time yesterday to elect a government leader, but analysts forecast that no candidate would attract enough votes and Prime Minister Enda Kenny would be forced into a much-weakened caretaker role for weeks of uncertain coalition talks.
Kenny's Fine Gael remains the largest party following the February 26 election, with 50 lawmakers in the 158-seat parliament. But Fine Gael no longer has a willing coalition partner strong enough to deliver a majority. Its only viable partner, in terms of pure arithmetic, is the number two Fail party with 44 seats.
Those two parties trace their origins to the opposite sides of Ireland's civil war and have never shared power in the 94 years since.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is running against Kenny to become prime minister. Both sides have downplayed the possibility of forging an unprecedented grand coalition combining their two centre-ground forces into one, possibly with Kenny and Martin taking turns in the top job.