The top three political parties in Ireland, namely Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, basically enjoyed the same support rate in the country's 2020 general election which ended here at 10:00 p.m. local time on Saturday night, according to an exit poll.
The exit poll, which says it has a margin of error of plus and minus 1.3 percent, showed that Fine Gael, the ruling party headed by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, won a 22.4 percent support in the election, followed by Sinn Fein (22.3 percent) and Fianna Fail (22.2 percent).
This is the first time in the country's history when there are three major parties competing with each other on almost equal footing instead of the two in the past elections, said RTE, the country's national radio and television broadcaster which commissioned the exit poll in partnership with other organizations.
The results of the exit poll indicate that it will be difficult for the country to form a new government as both leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had said prior to the election that they would not form coalition with Sinn Fein in the future government.
According to Irish Laws, whoever wins the most number of the 160 seats in the Dail, the lower house of the Irish parliament, it will be empowered to form the new government so long it can win the support from half of the members of the Dail either through coalition with or seeking support from other parties or independents.
In the last Dail, which was dissolved on January 14, 2020, Fine Gael had the largest number of seats which stood at 47, followed by Fianna Fail (45) and Sinn Fein (22).
There were altogether 515 candidates, either fielded by different political parties or running on their own, competing in the general election which kicked off at 7:00 a.m. local time on Saturday morning.
A total of 3.4 million people are eligible to vote. Preliminary counting showed that the national turnout in the 2020 general election could be higher than that of the 2016 election, which stood at 65.1 percent, according to local media reports.
Counting of the votes will start at 9:00 a.m. local time on Sunday morning and the results of the counting could be announced later in the day.