Well, it's not a real countdown - I'll be working tomorrow, or whenever it is that the Irish will be voting. But, still, it's been a fun ride over on the great green rock.
As I mentioned before, the drama over there is over the apparent collapse of the currently governing party, which also has governed the country nearly two-thirds of its history as a modern republic, ironically named Fianna Fáil. The reason for its stunning collapse extends out of the huge levels of unpopularity of its former leader (who's still Prime Minister, or as they call it, Taoiseach) Brian Cowen, who took over from the very popular Bertie Ahern, who pretty much brought peace to Ireland only a few years ago. FF is being crowded out of its position as the "natural governing party" of Ireland by the two traditional parties, the conservative Fine Gael, and the left-wing Labour Party (though don't mistake FF for a "liberal" party, despite its affiliations).
For those of you who have been following (not many I suspect, but nevertheless), it's pretty clear who will win at this point. There also seems to be something of a consensus among all the rolling average projections I've seen, which puts Fine Gael at 70-75 seats (up from 51), Labour at about 35-40 seats (up from 20), and Fianna Fáil sitting with 25-30 seats (down from 77), and the rest going to various smaller parties and independents. The only defector is the website Irish Polling Report, which doesn't do rolling averages, but gives FF even lower amounts based on individual polls released.
With that out of the way, it's pretty clear that FG will come out the main winner in this battle, though Labour certainly will gobble up its share. The strange fact of it is, however, that FG and Labour are traditionally coalition allies, having governed together many times in the past. Except, instead of being a coalition of the losers like before, they'll be forming more of a grand coalition - if they decide to join forces, anyways.
You see, FG and Labour always joined together because they were united against the overwhelming force that was FF, and not necessarily because they're ideologically in-sync. That force is now gone, so the question of whether a coalition would be formed between these two parties is now up in the air.
The fact is, if those results hold, FG would be about 10-15 seats short of a majority. There's a lot of speculation out there that if they can get that strong of a result, and even stronger if possible, they'll try to avoid forming a coalition with Labour, a party with whom they've had quite a few policy spats with over the recent weeks. But the fact is, FG is pretty much on-par with FF on every major policy front, and as this wonderful article suggests, might be time for a FG-FF coalition? Just get it over with? It's something to think about.
These are questions to save until after election day. It promises to be spectacular, and though I may be working, I'll be keeping an eye on it. Hopefully you fine folks will too.