Ireland 2020

Ireland holds its general election on 8 February. I wish I could offer a good preview. But no time. However, given how much many of us enjoy elections under single transferable vote, it seems like the community might want to gather and do some fruitful plantings. So here’s the place for it.

One thing of note I am aware of is polling showing Sinn Féin doing well, possibly enough to break into the top two. In first preferences, that is. Given STV, of course, an important consideration will be if it picks up transfers (or where, if anywhere, its supporters go in districts where they have votes that don’t elect one of their own).

Apparently this is the first time Ireland has voted on a Saturday. Naturally, I am not a fan of that idea. (The link is to Charles Richardson’s blog, The World is Not Enough, which I just discovered thanks to a comment on another thread here by Tom.)

9 thoughts on “Ireland 2020

  1. Sinn Féin only ran 42 candidates after poor results in the most recent European elections. Due to this understandable caution, they will thus will probably exhaust their candidates in a lot of places, if their actual vote reflects their polling.


  2. In an Irish Times article, a political analyst noted that 90% of the seats are decided on the first count, citing figures from elections all the way back to 1997. I have gone over constituency-level election results for every Dáil election held since November 1982, and can confirm that in the past thirty-seven years an average of just under 91% of the candidates who rank in the top three, four or five places in each constituency (depending on the number of seats to be filled) are ultimately elected to office. That figure has varied very little over time, ranging from a low of 88% to a high of just under 93%.

    The linked article also states very few candidates who have less than half the quota on the first count are elected to the Dáil. However, I found that from November 1982 to 2016 an average of just over four percent of elected TDs started with a first preference vote total under half the quota, which indicates such cases, while not common, are far from rare as the article seems to suggest.

    Finally, the article notes – quite accurately – that over time Sinn Féin has been attracting a larger number of second preferences. This is worth noting, not least because claims that the party receives few transfers remain quite common online, even though election results show that hasn’t been the case for some time now.


    • If transfered votes don’t affect the outcome in 90% of the cases, does the STV system mutate toward a SNTV system? Do exhausted votes affect anything?

      What is the advantage and disadvantages of the STV system?

      The Swiss free list system confuses me with panachage, how is this similar and different to the Irish STV?


    • In Saturday’s Dáil election, the overwhelming majority of elected candidates arrived in the first three, four or five places in the first count of each constituency, following the pattern established in previous general elections. However, they accounted for 86% of all elected TDs, which is the lowest figure in thirty-seven years.

      Meanwhile, a total of 28 Dáil seats – 17.5% – went to candidates who polled under half the quota in the first preference count. That figure is several times above the average incidence of just over four percent in the nine previous Dáil elections.

      By the way, had Dáil seats been assigned to the candidates with the largest first preference vote totals, the results of Saturday’s general election would have been as follows (change with respect to the actual outcome shown in parentheses):

      FG – 33 (-2)
      FF – 48 (+10)
      SF – 39 (+2)
      LAB – 6 (0)
      SOL-PBP – 3 (-2)
      GP – 9 (-3)
      SD – 4 (-2)
      AON – 1 (0)
      IND – 17 (-2)
      I4C – 0 (-1)

      Note that this would have been the notional SNTV outcome of Saturday’s election. More importantly, it would have given FF and FG a joint overall majority of one (excluding the Ceann Comhairle i.e. Speaker, who was automatically returned).


  3. I wonder, why SF was afraid of putting more candidates.. Isn’t it true, that unlike in SNTV, in STV party is not punished for having more candidates than can be elected, thanks to transfer of votes of eliminated candidates ?!


    • While it may or may not apply to SF or to Ireland in general, a party can be punished if it runs too many candidates who are eliminated too early, especially if not all of them are ranked by every voter or if voters “leak” to other parties.


  4. Apparently parties are afraid the level of intra-party transfers will be too low. (Australian parties also restrain themselves to one candidate while AV theoretically permits more)
    But even then: why hasn’t SF put up a candidate in Cork North-West? For a small party it’s interesting to have at least one candidate even in case it cannot win: it can say to another party ‘part of the votes that helped you in getting elected, came from us, so be gentle to us!’


    • No one seems to know why SF didn’t field a candidate in Cork North-West. At any rate, it’s by no means certain they would have won a seat there had they actually contested the constituency. In the other four Cork constituencies, SF substantially increased its share of the vote in the three constituencies where it had already won seats in 2016 (retaining all of them in Saturday’s election); but in Cork South-West, where it polled 8.5% in 2016 and won no seats, the party’s share of the vote just increased slightly to 10.8%, and again came up empty-handed seat-wise. In fact, in Cork South-West SF had the lowest ratio of first preference votes to quota in the entire country, at 0.431.

      Interestingly enough, in the five constituencies where SF won no seats the party obtained less than 0.7 quotas in the first preference count, whereas in constituencies where it won one seat the figure stood consistently above 0.7. In seven of eight constituencies where SF received at least 0.7 but less than one quota in the first preference count, SF was able to reach quota by means of transfers in subsequent counts, while in Roscommon-Galway the party’s candidate was elected without a quota. As such, had SF fielded additional candidates where its single candidates polled at least 1.7 first preference quotas, or where it had two candidates with a first preference total of at least 2.7 quotas, and had the party first preference vote totals remained otherwise unchanged, it might have won one additional seat in each of the following seven constituencies:

      2.706 Donegal
      1.788 Dublin Bay North
      1.785 Dublin Central
      1.775 Dublin North-West
      1.965 Dublin South-Central
      1.783 Dublin South-West
      1.913 Waterford

      That said, it’s also possible SF might have won extra seats had it fielded additional candidates in other constituencies.


      • Regarding Cork North-West, it should also be noted that SF didn’t run in the constituency until 2011, when it polled 7.4% of first preferences. However, although the party registered a significant nationwide advance in the 2016 Dáil election, it slipped back to 6.9% in Cork North-West, whose boundaries had been slightly redrawn after the 2011 general election. Wikipedia also notes that “it is a large rural 3 seat constituency” and that “due to its size and landscape it is considered one of the most difficult constituencies to canvass in Ireland.” Given these circumstances and the disappointing 2016 outcome, it would seem SF didn’t have much of an incentive to field a candidate in the constituency for the 2020 general election.

        That said, an Amárach Research/ poll has SF soaring to 35% of first preferences – well ahead of both FF (17%) and FG (18%) – in the event a second general election were to be held later this year, Should such an election take place, I wouldn’t be surprised if the party ran candidates in every constituency, including Cork North-West – not to mention additional candidates in constituencies where it likely missed a chance to pick up further seats earlier this month.


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