Fianna Fáil’s candidate strategy will punish the party further

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.

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5 thoughts on “Fianna Fáil’s candidate strategy will punish the party further

  1. If a week is a long time in politics – in particular considering the week we’ve just had – a month (the time to the likely election date) must be an eternity. It would be unwise to underestimate FF’s vote on the day. Tribal loyalties run deep. And they will be able to exploit policy differences between FG and Labour – the absence of an agreed programme of government (similar to that prior to the 1973 election) is a drawback. In the absence of a coherent alternative government, FF could go around the country ‘whipping up apathy’.

    However, because everything they’ve put their hand to since the infamous night of the bank guarantee has turned to dust, perhaps one shouldn’t underestimate their ability to self-destruct.

    I think a lot of seats will turn on a handful of votes and we should look forward to recounts in many constituencies.

  2. Dublin Central is unusual case in that Fianna Fail’s chances of winning a seat would actually have been worse if they had gone with a similar strategy to Dublin North West and Dublin South and just run the (remaining) Dail deputy. A Brady-only ticket would quite likely have seen the one remaining FF seat in Central fall out of the party’s hands – possibly to Mary Fitzpatrick, who may have opted to run as an independent if she had not got the party nomination.

    • Might be better for the party to have Fitzpatrick outside FF for the election, and she can pick up disaffected FF supporters who wouldn’t vote for official FF candidates. The new leader could then do a charm offensive on all the independent FF TDs after the election and build the parliamentary party that way.

      This way it’s unlikely either will get elected.

  3. In using a by-election for your data are you not discounting the built in bias against a government as well as local politics, something that isn’t as relevant in a by-election as more national issues get brought to the fore front?

    • Normally you wouldn’t use by-election results, but in this case the by-election result is better than opinion polls give the party in Dublin so it’s not a bad basis on which to judge.

      I suspect FF candidates will not be pushing national issues or a national campaign in the election. There’ll be 70-odd individuals campaigning.

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