Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has led his Fianna Fail (FF) party to a third straight election victory.
The FF, in power since 1997, won 78 seats in Ireland's 166-member parliament in the election which was held on 24 May, leaving him poised to form the next government. Fine Gael (FG), the main opposition party, obtained 51 seats. Sinn Fein (SF), which had been expected to do well, after cementing the peace process in Northern Ireland in early May, failed to attract much support, and kept only four of its five seats.
FF is due to start talks with possible coalition partners this week. They include the two Progressive Democrats (PD) MPs, who formed part of the last government, five independent MPs, and possibly even the Greens, who won six seats.
Ahern has overseen an economic boom fuelled by high overseas investment, consumer spending and record-low interest rates. Annual GDP growth has averaged 7% in the past decade, compared with 2.2% across the 13-nation euro region. House prices have quadrupled in the same period.
Ahern, criticised during the campaign by FG for squandering the fruits of Ireland's success, has promised to improve public services. He is aiming to increase the number of hospital beds, hire 2,000 extra police officers and continue a €184bn investment plan for transport and telecommunications.
At the same time, Ahern says he will cut the lower and top rates of income tax and abolish taxes on home purchases.
28 May 2007