Ireland’s presidential election, 2011

Ireland has its presidential election today. The president is elected by an “instant runoff”–specifically, the same Single Transferable Vote system that is used for the Irish parliament, but given a single seat, the quota for election is 50%+1. Of course, this means it’s the Alterative Vote, electing the first candidate to reach a majority on either first preferences or transferred lower preferences of voters whose higher-preferred candidates have been eliminated from the count.

As noted in the Irish Times:

TODAY, FOR only the second time since 1938, a presidential election will ultimately be determined by the second, third and fourth preferences cast by voters…  

This year, unless the polls are seriously wrong, no candidate is likely to be within 10 percentage points of a simple majority on the first count. The election, with seven in the race spread out the way they appear to be, is certain to go to a second, probably a third, and possibly even fourth or fifth counts.

The Irish presidency is weak, within a premier-presidential system that is almost parliamentary. Yet I wonder if the current political upheaval could lead to a president asserting more influence for the office.

7 thoughts on “Ireland’s presidential election, 2011

  1. Is it just me, or does the counting for this election seem weird?

    After the first count, both Davis and Scallon are eliminated. Even if all of Davis’ voters’ second preferences went to Scallon, it still wouldn’t be enough to get her out of last place in the next round, so eliminating them both is safe.

    But then after the second count, the same is true about the bottom two candidates, Mitchell and Norris. (In fact, the bottom three combined still wouldn’t make it above Gallagher.) So why is only Norris eliminated?

  2. Maybe it has to do with the decentralised count? Just going on how it was presented by the RTÉ, it seemed to me like some eliminations happened before all constituencies had reported their counts. Since the decision about how many candidates to eliminate is in the hands of the returning officer, perhaps s/he let the other constituencies proceed a step further despite lateness/trouble in a few? This would take into account a sort of margin of error, but would aim for the best use of time. A shaky theory, especially given the numbers, but the real answer probably also boils down to “because s/he said so”.

  3. Aha, that makes sense. Nevertheless, group eliminations should be eliminated. Will no-one think of the the psephologists?

  4. Oh, that’s really interesting! Thanks for finding that, Bancki.

    Note to future self, as Wikipedia is sure to change: The reason is that if a candidate gets eliminated with more than a quarter-quota, they get their expenses refunded.

  5. In a referendum at the same time of the presidential elections, voters rejected a government-supported constitutional amendment that would have expanded the investigatory powers of parliament. About 52% voted against.

    Another referendum proposal, on reducing judge’s pay, passed (about 79% in favor).

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