It’s almost four weeks since polling day and there’s still no sign of a government being formed any time soon. The current belief is that when the Dáil next votes on the matter (at its next meeting on April 6 – two weeks from now) we still won’t have a new government. We’re in uncharted territory (for more discussion see here).
Adding greatly to the complexity of the situation are the competing claims of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to be at the lead of any government that may form. We are in the unprecedented situation in which no one party clearly dominates over all the others in terms of seats (and certainly not in terms of votes either).
Given this new reality perhaps it’s time we learned some lessons from our European neighbours for whom an electoral scenario like this is not quite so unusual. A case in point is the Netherlands where ‘hung parliaments’ are the norm, making the issue of government formation just as important as the election itself.
The procedure that has evolved there is for the monarch (the Dutch head of state) to appoint an ‘informateur’ – commonly a respected senior or former politician – whose role is to chair talks between the different parties with a view to determining which group of parties is likely to form a coalition, who is likely to lead it, and what should be included in the programme for government.
This might be a good time to consider a constitutional reform to introduce the office of informateur to cover future situations like this – perhaps such a proposal could be included in the programme for government of whatever government is formed in the next weeks and months (assuming one is formed).
But what to do about the current impasse? What about a private conversation between Enda Kenny and Michael Martin to agree a common statement on the issue? Is this such a far fetched idea?