- Title: IRELAND: Jobs and economy key as Irish vote in cliff-hanger election
- Date: 24th May 2007
- Summary: AHERN LEAVING POLLING STATION AHERN GREETING VOTERS AHERN WALKING DOWN STREET VARIOUS OF AHERN GETTING INTO CAR
- Embargoed: 8th June 2007 17:05
- Location: Ireland
- Country: Ireland
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1V44HT1JQ1SUNRSZSQ29OUNQJ
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Ireland voted on Thursday (May 24) in an election so close that Prime Minister Bertie Ahern may have to lure a major left-wing opponent to join him if he is to stay in power.
Having repeatedly ruled out entering a coalition with Ahern, Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte left the door open to a deal, telling Reuters he did not look forward to the prospect but he was keen to keep IRA political ally Sinn Fein out of power.
Ahern has ruled out governing with Sinn Fein, saying the party's left-wing economics are incompatible with his own policies, but opinion polls show voters believe he would do a deal if it was the only way to extend his 10 years in power.
Labour, Sinn Fein and the Green Party are all potential kingmakers in an election where the governing coalition of the centrist Fianna Fail and the pro-business Progressive Democrats will fall short of a majority.
Ahern voted at a polling station in the capital Dublin. There, voters were concerned with health and finances.
One voted told Reuters: "I suppose the issues are health, the economy, the stability of the economy. Keep going forward. A lot of the issues have to do with worry about employment, continuing employment, interest rates. They are the major issues that are of concern to us."
Another said: "I don't see any wonder cures for the opposition. But I think the present administration, you know, I suppose the fact they've been in power, at least the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, you know. That's the way I feel about it.".
Fine Gael, the main opposition party, is fighting to unseat Ahern on a joint platform with Labour but they, too, could fail to win enough seats even if they do get the backing of the so-far unaligned Green Party in a "rainbow coalition".
Polls close at 10:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) with counting due to begin early on Friday (May 25). A close result may lead to days of horse-trading as parties try to cobble together a majority.
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