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Irish presidential election, 2004

The next Irish presidential election is due in 2004. The campaign has provisionally started with the announcement in early 2003 that the Irish Labour Party will context the election, even if the outgoing and popular current president, Mary McAleese seeks a second term. It is speculated that in the event of full context, Mary McAleese might decide not to seek re-election.

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Fianna Fáil

As the major party of government, in the event of an election, the party is guaranteed to run a candidate. Its selection will rest on the decision of the current president, Mary McAleese as to whether she will seek a second term. In the event of an electoral contest, though she may nominate herself as a candidate (a right of all one term presidents or ex-presidents) she could expect to be endorsed as the Fianna Fáil candidate, should she run again, having been its candidate in 1997.

Fine Gael

Though Phoenix Magazine[?], a satirical political magazine, has suggested that the party may not run a candidate, as the current largest opposition party, Fine Gael would find it exceptionally difficult not to run a candidate without creating the impression, thanks to its disastrous 2002 general election performance (when it dropped from 54 seats to 31) that it itself saw itself as an electoral liability. Having contests all presidential contests (1945, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1990 and 1997) most political commentators expect it to run a candidate. Among the speculated candidates are:

Labour

The Irish Labour Party has already made it clear that whatever happens, and irrespective of the attitudes of other parties and even in the event of President McAleese seeking a second term, the party will run a candidate.

Independents

The independent bloc in Oireachtas Éireann has more than the required twenty TDs and/or senators to nominate a candidate. Either of the two main parties within this bloc, Sinn Féin and the Green Party could seek to have its candidate chosen, though as a TD or senator can only participate in one nomination, only one candidate could get through with the number of independents available. Alternatively the bloc could nominate an independent candidate. Possible candidates include:

  • Senator David Norris - if he does not receive a Labour nomination;
  • Kevin Lee[?] - former emigrant who has already begun his campaign and been in contact with all local councillors;
  • Dana, Rosemary Scallon MEP - family rights campaign and candidate in 1997;
  • Mary Robinson (president: 1990-97) - a former president who has not served two terms may nominate themselves for election at any stage.

Past History of electoral contests

The electoral wins in contested polls are as follows

  • Fianna Fáil - 1945, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1997

  • Fine Gael - none

  • Labour - 1990

  • Others - none

Only one contest took place involving a sitting president. In 1966 President de Valera defeated Fine Gael's Tom O'Higgins[?] by less than 1%.

On the basis of the evidence, whomever Fianna Fáil chooses in the 2004 Irish presidential election is the likely but not certain victor. Given the near defeat of a legendary nationalist figure like Eamon de Valera, President McAleese, should she choose to contest again, cannot be certain of victory. In an electoral contest under Proportional Representation with the Single Transferable Vote, the greater the number of candidates, the greater the likelihood that a Fianna Fáil candidate could be beaten, if all minor party candidates transfer their preferences to another strong opposition candidate.



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