In my last post I showed how a snap election was never likely, despite the ongoing rumour mill at the time. Two and a half months on and we’re still in the dark as to when Enda Kenny will drive to the Phoenix Park and ask President Higgins to dissolve the Dáil. Once this is done, an election must take place within the following 30 days.
History points towards a February election
While some election dates are spontaneous and not planned, the trend overwhelmingly supports a February vote. The election must take place before April 8th.
Friday is an increasingly popular polling day
Ireland hasn’t voted on a Tuesday/Wednesday since the late 1980s/early 1990s. Three of the past four elections have been held on Fridays. This facilitates counting on Saturday and it provides greater convenience to voters. For example, students returning home for the weekend can vote on Friday evening, assuming polls remain open to their recent norm of 10pm.
Ard Fhéis dates prevent a poll in early February
Broadcast time is precious to political parties during an election. A party Ard Fhéis includes a c. 2 hours Saturday morning broadcast and a half-hour leaders speech usually at 8.30pm on the same day. However, if an Ard Fhéis overlaps with a general election campaign, these hours are deducted from a party’s allocation. The dates are as follows:
- Fianna Fáil Ard Fhéis – 16th January
- Fine Gael Ard Fhéis – 23rd January
- Labour Conference – 30th January
- Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis – 4th February (postponed)
Simply put, Enda Kenny is unlikely to call an election before the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis, and may wait until after the Labour Conference. Sinn Féin’s decision to postpone theirs is significant.
Friday February 26th most likely
Allowing for a three/four week campaign, and for dissolution to take place following the Labour Conference, Friday February 26th is the most likely date for the 2016 Irish general election.
Two other options are open to the Taoiseach:
- Friday February 19th – Taoiseach shortens the campaign period from four weeks to three.
- Friday February 12th – Taoiseach shortens the campaign period from four weeks to three and dissolution takes place following the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis.
The second option would place Labour’s Conference during the campaign period, a move which would damage coalition relations. Having said that, a Fine Gael vs. Labour narrative is beginning to emerge in the run up to the campaign, so bigger arguments may be more prominent come the new year.