Eoin O’Malley (25 January 2011)
Last night Fianna Fáil selected two candidates to run in the four seat Dublin Central constituency. Given that the party polled less than 13 percent of the vote in the 2009 by election, and there are no reasons to believe its vote will have increased since then, this is a dangerous strategy. This is far less than the quota for the constituency (20 percent of the vote + 1) and assuming a reasonable equal distribution of votes between the two candidates, means that neither will have a chance of winning a seat. In fact only if one FF candidate got the whole of the 13 percent would s/he candidate have a good chance of getting elected.
Michael Gallagher writing in How Ireland Vote 2002 gives broad bands of support which indicate a candidate’s chances of election. 1. Above .65 of a quota gives a high (>.9) probability of election. 2. from .5 to .65 of a quota gives an even chance of election. 3. Less than half a quota gives a candidate virtually no chance. Throughout the country Fianna Fáil is selecting candidates as if it will get 25 or 30 percent support, seemingly unaware of its huge drop in support. So many three and four seat constituencies will have two Fianna Fáil candidates running even though this is likely to mean it gets no seats. This problem is understandable in the context of two incumbents seeking re-election, but where so many TDs have retired the party has a chance to fix the situation.
It is likely that FF has been conducting constituency polls using ballot papers with candidates’ names and not just party labels (which the national polling companies have used so far – they’ll start to use ballot papers in the campaign). These might indicate that Fianna Fáil’s support is much higher than the national polls indicate. But if this isn’t the case the first job a new leader needs to do if Fianna Fáil is to survive, is revisit selection conventions or more likely at this stage, impose tickets on the constituencies to prevent a disastrous election turn into to annihilation.
Listen to Seán Donnelly on this here.