Explaining the election could take weeks if I am not careful. The process is here is different than the US process in almost every way it seems. This is the second election that I will have witnessed in Ireland and I am finding the second time nearly as confusing as the first. To start off here are some vocab terms:
An Taoiseach - Prime Minister (Currently Brian Cowen)
President - Head of State (Currently Mary McAleese) Presidents can serve up to 2 seven year terms
Oireachtas Éireann - National Parliament
Dáil Éireann - the Lower House (most powerful and directly elected)
Seanad - the Upper House
Fianna Fáil - current party in power
Fine Gael - expected party to win in election
In Ireland they have what is called proportional representation. When they go to the polls to vote, they vote for their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. The logic is that this provides a more accurate proportional representation within the Dáil.
When you vote in Ireland you vote for a party. If that party is elected then the current party leader will become the Taoiseach.
One of the things that still surprises me everytime there is a referendum or an election are the amount of posters that go up around the whole country. It reminds me of being in high school and seeing all of the SGA posters go up. One night there is nothing on street light posts and the next morning they are everywhere. Literally everywhere. I live 5 miles from where I work and I tried to count the amount of posters I saw between home and work. I lost count at 200.
Another thing I found fascinating and confusing is how an election is called. the current Taoiseach must go the President and Request to dissolve the Dail. Once this dissolution has been approved, there is a 30-60 period within the next government must be elected. This is the part I think is magical because there are only election programs, debates, etc for 30 days. The public goes out and votes and boom - there is a new government. This process means that the government can spend less time on the campaign trail and more time actually governing the country (in my wee humble opinion). Granted Ireland is a much smaller country than the US, but it seems to me things would be a lot less intense if the nation didn't spend two years half of each presidential term working towards the election.
In the case of this general election in Ireland, Brian Cowen was essentially forced to dissolve the government. After surviving a narrow vote of confidence, I think he realised that the country is ready for someone else to give it a go. I don't know how much news makes it way to the US about Ireland, but the recession here is of epic proportion and continuing to get worse everyday. The next big thing the country has to worry about is paying back the first installment of the IMF loan. If Ireland defaults on that it will be immeasurably damaging for the country....but I digress.
i hope you enjoyed your Friday history lesson! The election is on the 25th of Feb and I will be sure to share the results with you.