The 2020 general election in Ireland kicked off at 7:00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Saturday morning as scheduled, with the participation of a record number of female candidates, local media reported.
Out of the 515 candidates, who are either fielded by different political parties or running as independents, more than 160 are women, reported local media, adding that this is the first general election in the country in which there is a female candidate running in every constituency.
To encourage female participation in the country's politics, each political party is required to have a minimum of 30 percent female candidates, or they will forfeit half of their state funding.
It is reported that all the major political parties have met the requirement.
A total of 6,500 polling stations have been set up in 39 constituencies across the country, which will remain open for voters until 10:00 p.m. local time (2200 GMT) on Saturday night.
During the 15-hour voting, candidates will compete for 159 seats in the Dail, the lower house of the Irish parliament, with one seat being automatically renewed for the speaker of the Dail.
Whoever wins the simple majority of the seats in the Dail will be empowered to form the next government, according to Irish laws.
It now looks almost certain that no party can win the simple majority in the election as the latest polls repeatedly suggested that none of the three major political parties in the country, namely Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, can get a support rate of more than 30 percent in the election.
Under this scenario, the party that wins the largest number of seats in the Dail will have to seek support from others until they can beat the simple majority target to form the government.
Counting of the votes will begin at 9:00 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) on Sunday morning.
Earlier on Friday, voting on 12 offshore islands of Ireland, which involved more than 2,100 voters, was already held ahead of the rest of the country to avoid any possible delays in the national counting of the votes on Sunday.