If the polls are to be believed, the next election has all the indications of a bloodbath for Fianna Fail. Recent mutterings may also indicate an election being closer than we think. How much of a bloodbath remains to be seen but Its starting to look as if we could be in Noonan territory. Could Fianna Fáil’s performance be 2002 Noonan-led Fine Gael like?
Fianna Fáil should get more than 31 seats but there will be unexpected names and numbers falling all over the place.
In 2002 Fine Gael won 31 seats on 22.5% of the votes, a loss of 23 seats. In 1997 they won 54 seats on 27.95% of the vote. So a drop of 5.4% cost them 23 seats. Their Losses included Jim Mitchell, Alan Dukes, Austin Currie, Brian Hayes, Frances Fitzgerald, Alan Shatter, Michael Joe Cosgrave, Paul Bradford, Deirdre Clune and of course Nora Owen. (Labour won 21 seats on 10% of the vote)
Well less first preferences did damage and nationally hovering around 23% is dangerous in 3 seaters and should win you only one seat in a four or a five seater.
The damage though was exacerbated by other factors.
An unpopular leader tainted by scandal (Hep C)…. Tick!
Cowen’s not exactly top of the popularity stakes and the list of scandals is too long to mention. Having a popular leader tends to drive transfers your way.
Unpopular policy ...Tick!
Whilst not in the same league as NAMA etc promises to compensate Eircom shareholders and Taxi plate holders were seen as plain silly by the electorate. So yet more possible transfers were alienated.
Bad candidate strategy…Tick!
They ran too many candidates in some areas such as Dun Laoghaire. Now we don’t quite know Fianna Fails candidate strategy yet, but you would have to assume sitting TDs will run and at 24% that’s too many.
HQ will be adding a few names too.That’s even more too many! There will be pressure too as I suspect we may have a raft of gene-pool FF Independents ready to go if they don’t get the party nomination.
The other thing that has come to light this week is party discipline. We’ve had various TD’s call for Cowens head without censure. If you can call for Cowen to go and get away with it what’s stopping you campaigning in areas assigned to another party candidate.
The fine art of vote management goes out the window. That is where real damage can be done, especially outside Dublin.
Its likely to be dog eat dog between Fianna Fáil candidates and as Fianna Fáil in the mid 20% bracket is new territory, the name of the game will be survival. There will be few if any ‘safe’ FF seats.
In 2002 Fine Gael lost 9 of their 12 Dublin seats (3 out of the available 47 in Dublin). In Dublin they got just 14.4% of the vote. Fianna Fáil won 19 seats in Dublin in 2007. In the 2009 European Elections Fianna Fail got 18.3% in Dublin and around 17% in the Locals.
They got a smaller % of transfers in the European and Local Elections than Fine Gael did in 2002. So a further fall of 2 or 3 % points in Dublin should cause Fianna Fáil to lose at the least half of their seats in Dublin.
There is an impact too in the demise of the PDs. It works both ways though in that they were the one party that transferred well to FF but at the same time a party that could take seats at FFs expense.
So in certain constituencies FF should actually need a higher first preference to win a seat than previously as there will be no PD transfers to get them over the line. Yet in others (Dublin South East for example) the lack of PD candidate should help them hold on to their seat.
So if the FF vote collapses where do the seats go? If the current trend continues and Fine Gael get 39% then (as wbs wrote about before) we are possibly looking at a government without Labour.