Irish Coalition Suffers Setback as Pre-Election Support Dips

Ireland’s ruling coalition suffered a setback as two opinion polls showed its support dropping with a general election approaching.

Combined support for Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael-Labour alliance dropped 2 percentage points in January to 39 percent from December, the Sunday Business Post said, citing a Red C poll. The Sunday Times put backing for the alliance at 37 percent, also down two points.

“To win a second term, the government parties will need to secure around 44 percent of first preferences, with these polls showing that they remain some distance off that target,” Philip O’Sullivan, an economist at Investec Plc in Dublin, said in a note.

Ireland may face a bout of political instability following the election. While the two biggest opposition parties, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, would win combined support of about 37 percent, polls indicate, Fianna Fail has so far ruled out governing with its smaller rival or Fine Gael.

An election must be held within three months, and bookmaker Paddy Power Plc last week made February 26 favorite.

Elected in 2011, Kenny will campaign on his record of nursing the economy back to health after the worst recession in the nation’s modern history. The Fine Gael leader is betting that the tax cuts which will boost pay packets this month will buttress a recovery in support for his coalition.

“The benefits of the income tax cuts unveiled in October’s budget have not yet been felt in all pay packets,” said O’Sullivan. “There is a lot to play for.”

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