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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ireland's Elections

The Republic of Ireland elects on national level a head of state — the president — and a legislature. The president is elected for a seven year term by Irish citizens resident in the state.

Oireachtas Éireann (the national parliament) has two chambers:

  • Dáil Éireann (the house of representatives or lower house) has 166 members, elected for a term of up to five years by a quota-based single transferable vote system in multi-seat constituencies.

  • Seanad Éireann (the Senate or upper house) has 60 members, 11 members nominated by the Taoiseach, 6 members elected by graduates of two universities and 43 members elected from five Vocational Panels, all in short time after the parliamentary elections.

Governments and elections have been dominated by two main parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The electoral system provides for a form of proportional representation, with the consequence that coalition government has become the norm in recent decades. At present there are seven parties in the Oireachtas and a number of non-party representatives.

Residents of the state who are Irish citizens or British citizens may participate in elections to the national parliament. Residents who are citizens of any EU state may vote in European Parliament elections, while any resident, regardless of citizenship, may participate in local elections.

Entitlement to vote, based on citizenship:

Local elections: Irish citizens - British citizens - EU citizens - Non-EU citizens

European elections: Irish citizens - British citizens - EU citizens

Dáil Elections:Irish citizens - British citizens

Presidential elections: Irish citizens

Referendums: Irish citizens

The President of Ireland is formally elected by the citizens of Ireland once in every seven years, except in the event of premature vacancy, when an election must be held within sixty days. The President is directly elected by secret ballot under the system of the Alternative Vote. While both Irish and UK citizens resident in the state may vote in elections to Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament), only Irish citizens, who must be at least eighteen years of age, may vote in the election of the President. The presidency is open to all citizens of the state who are at least 35. A candidate must, however be nominated by one of the following:

  • Twenty members of the Oireachtas (national parliament).

  • Four local authorities.

  • Themselves (in the case of an incumbent or former president that has served only one term).

Where only one candidate is nominated, he or she is deemed elected without the need for a ballot. For this reason, where there is a consensus among political parties, the President may be 'elected' without the occurrence of an actual ballot. No one may serve as President for more than two terms.

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