Saturday, October 31, 2015

Infodump-Australian Capital Territory election, 1989

For some of my readers, this post is not going to be especially interesting. This post is mostly to put some data out there that may be useful to those seeking a record of Australian electoral history, and that is in too awkward a format to add to Wikipedia.

The Australian Capital Territory, after its formation, was directly governed by the federal government. Gough Whitlam's government established an elected assembly for the ACT, like with the Northern Territory. However, unlike the Northern Territory, the ACT was not given self-government; the assembly retained mainly an advisory role.

In 1978, a referendum took place on the governing status of the ACT. Voters were offered three options. They could vote for the ACT to have self-government, with the same power the Northern Territory has. This would effectively remove the role for the Federal Government in the government of the ACT. They could vote for power to be shared between an elected local government body and the federal government. Or, they could vote for the status quo.

The result was a landslide for the status quo. Territorians did not like the idea of more politicians, and did not want to have the same funding arrangements as the states. The government respected the result, and the current arrangements were kept in place. The elected advisory Assembly was continued, but voter interest was low.

In 1988, however, the federal Labor government decided to introduce self-government unilaterally. Four pieces of legislation were passed by the Federal Parliament to introduce self-government. The government would be a minimalist one; there would be no representative of the Crown to give assent to legislation, dissolve the legislature or appoint a cabinet. Assent to legislation would be automatically given by passage through the legislature, legislatures would have fixed terms, and the Chief Minister would be elected by secret ballot in the legislature and would then appoint a cabinet.

One of the most controversial parts of the legislation was the electoral system for the legislature. The Labor Party wanted the same electoral system as used for the federal House of Representatives; preferential voting with single member districts. However, Labor did not have a majority in the Senate at the time, and needed Liberal/National or Australian Democrat support for the legislation. 

Both parties, fearing that the ACT's homogeneous electoral geography would lead to Labor domination over the territory's government, blocked the legislation and demanded that the government introduce a proportional system. Labor, seeing this as inevitable, decided to go with a party-list system. The Australian Democrats didn't like this, though. Their status as a centrist party meant that they would be advantaged by preferential voting, and so they supported a system that would include preferences in a similar way to the single transferable vote. The Senate process merged the two systems, in a way that made a mess of both of them.

"Modified D'Hondt"

The resulting system was christened 'Modified D'Hondt'. It combined many of the key elements of the system used for the Senate, as well as party list proportional representation. These two have been combined before in Australia; South Australia used a hybrid of the two for elections to their upper house in the 1970s. Voters were permitted to number as many or as few parties as they wanted. Parties that failed to receive one-half of the Droop quota (about 4.16% of the vote) had their preferences distributed to parties that had hit that threshold. All seats were then distributed using the largest-remainder system and the Droop quota. However, the ACT system added a few more complicated features. I'll get right into the explanation.


Voting under Modified D'Hondt was a relatively simple process. The ballot paper was similar to that used for the Senate. There was a thick black line across the paper, with boxes for parties above the line and boxes for their candidates below. Voters voted by placing the number 1 in any box. That's all. They could number boxes for as many or as few candidates or parties as they wished, and they could number both parties and candidates (for example, you could vote 1 for John Smith, a Liberal candidate, 2 for the Labor Party box, and 3 for Jane Smith, a Green candidate).

Despite this, the informal rate was similar to the last federal House of Representative elections, where more preferences are required; it was speculated that this was due to people writing disparaging comments about the candidates on the ballot paper.


Counting was a more complicated process. It happened in stages. The first stage of counting was the simplest. All votes for a party or its candidates were counted and added up. The total of this was divided by 18 (the Droop quota; votes/seats+1). Parties that did not have this many votes were excluded from the count from this point on. This aspect of the law was controversial. Thresholds are fairly common under party-list systems, but at that point had only been used in South Australia under the aforementioned list system. 

At the second stage, the preferences from the parties that had failed to meet the quota were distributed. So, if you had voted 1 Shooters 2 Liberal, and the Shooters had failed to meet the quota, your vote would now go to the Liberal Party. At this point, party and candidate votes were not distinguished between. Votes with no preferences outside a party (i.e 1 Shooters, 2 Robert Jones, who is a Shooters candidate) could be transferred according to the party voting ticket, which was a list of all the parties in ranked order. If there was preferences outside a party, but none of them were for a party that had met the quota, the vote was exhausted and set aside: it will not play any further role in the count.

At the third stage, the D'Hondt system was used to distribute seats to parties in the normal way, using vote totals determined through the preferences. These were not formal allocations, though. Under the electoral law, these were considered only 'provisional', for reasons to be explained later.

At the fourth stage, seats were provisionally allocated to candidates within parties, based on the number of seats the parties had been provisionally allocated. This was done using the single transferable vote to count the rankings voters made when they voted for parties. A vote above the line for a party counted as a vote down that party's ticket. An incomplete vote within a ticket would have its preferences counted as far as they had been expressed. Further preferences in that vote would be considered ticket votes. For this reason, few candidates were elected outside their party's order.

At the fifth stage, candidates who had not been provisionally elected, but who were part of parties who had won a quota, had their preferences distributed to the next candidate still in the count. Candidates were not 'excluded' per se; they could still have votes distributed back to them.

The sixth stage was effectively a repetition of the third. The D'Hondt system was used to distribute seats amongst the parties using the new, adjusted vote totals. It would be possible that the seat distribution would change at this stage. As could be expected, the seventh stage was a repetition of the fourth. The single transferable vote was used to distribute seats within parties, using the new votes. These seats were final.

Election results

The results below are votes for individual candidates, organised into parties. Please note that first preference votes cast for more than one candidate within a party have been counted as party votes. An asterisk (*) denotes elected candidates.
Votes %
Labor 24587 17.33%
Rosemary Follett* 6654 4.69%
Paul Whalan* 321 0.23%
Wayne Berry* 90 0.06%
Ellnor Grassby* 90 0.08%
Bill Wood* 159 0.11%
Di Ford 33 0.02%
Kevin Gill 96 0.07%
Anna Robieson 40 0.03%
Martin Atteridge 40 0.03%
Peta Beelen 22 0.02%
Barry Reid 260 0.18%
Total Labor 32410 22.85%
Liberal 15526 10.94%
Gary Humphries* 3446 2.43%
Trevor Kaine* 1203 0.85%
Robyn Nolan* 70 0.05%
Bill Stefinak* 234 0.16%
Greg Cornwell 171 0.12%
Lyle Dunne 49 0.03%
Peter Kobold 90 0.06%
Judith Dowson 67 0.05%
Peter Jansen 86 0.06%
Bob Winnel 137 0.10%
Total Liberal 21079 14.86%
No Self Government Party 14125 14.86%
Craig Duby* 1657 1.17%
Carmel Maher* 55 0.04%
David Prowse* 54 0.04%
David Prowse* 54 0.04%
John Taylor 55 0.04%
Norman Henry 23 0.02%
Peter Alabaster 55 0.04%
John Cunningham 42 0.03%
Chris Elworthy 18 0.01%
Elma Lindh 14 0.01%
Nev Aurousseau 14 0.01%
John Cantlon 14 0.01%
Ken Durie 10 0.01%
Bob Smythe 31 0.02%
Lindsay Sales 11 0.01%
Phillipa Meredith 22 0.02%
Jack Wight 22 0.02%
Yvonne Hammond 44 0.03%
Total No Self Government Party 16274 11.47%
Residents Rally 8765 6.18%
Bernard Collaery* 1855 1.31%
Norm Jensen* 129 0.09%
Michael Moore* 301 0.21%
Hector Kinloch* 1696 1.20%
Joan Kellett 191 0.13%
Chris Donohue 142 0.10%
Marion Le 385 0.27%
Kevin Giles 77 0.05%
Catherine Rossiter 106 0.07%
Total Residents Rally 13647 9.62%
Abolish Self Government Coalition 9165 6.46%
Dennis Stevenson* 1327 0.94%
Flo Grant 36 0.03%
Gladys Dickson 15 0.01%
Chris Tazreiter 33 0.02%
Nerolie Bush 17 0.01%
Geoff Dopel 29 0.02%
Trish Orton 10 0.01%
Gail Aiken 20 0.01%
Mike Trevethan 35 0.02%
Reg Hayward 6 0.00%
Colin Beaton 15 0.01%
John Hesketh 23 0.02%
Total Abolish Self Government Coalition 10721 7.56%
Abolish Self Government Coalition 9165 6.46%
Dennis Stevenson* 1327 0.94%
Flo Grant 36 0.03%
Gladys Dickson 15 0.01%
Chris Tazreiter 33 0.02%
Nerolie Bush 17 0.01%
Geoff Dopel 29 0.02%
Trish Orton 10 0.01%
Gail Aiken 20 0.01%
Mike Trevethan 35 0.02%
Reg Hayward 6 0.00%
Colin Beaton 15 0.01%
John Hesketh 23 0.02%
Total Abolish Self Government Coalition 10721 7.56%
Fair Elections Coalition 1397 0.98%
Tony Fleming 5269 3.71%
Alan Runciman 494 0.35%
Sara Kirchbaum 94 0.07%
Gordon McAllister 19 0.01%
Gus Petersilka 345 0.24%
Julie McCarron-Benson 147 0.10%
Total Fair Elections Coalition 7765 5.47%
Fair Elections Coalition 1397 0.98%
Tony Fleming 5269 3.71%
Alan Runciman 494 0.35%
Sara Kirchbaum 94 0.07%
Gordon McAllister 19 0.01%
Gus Petersilka 345 0.24%
Julie McCarron-Benson 147 0.10%
Total Fair Elections Coalition 7765 5.47%
Independent Haslem 4253 3.00%
John Haslem 2548 1.80%
Caryl Haslem 66 0.05%
Total Independent Haslem 6867 4.84%
ACT Community Party 1645 1.16%
Ken Fry 3977 2.80%
Dominic Mico 142 0.10%
Lorne Doyle 13 0.01%
Total ACT Community Party 5777 4.07%
Canberra First Party 3774 2.66%
Allan Nelson 904 0.64%
Beryl Byrnes 29 0.02%
John McMahon 17 0.01%
Jeff Brown 74 0.05%
Michael Apps 18 0.01%
Barry Brogan 21 0.01%
Jennie Booth 8 0.01%
Arthur Hetherington 5 0.00%
Elizabeth Apps 16 0.01%
Mike McColl 31 0.02%
Matt Campbell 9 0.01%
Garry Behan 12 0.01%
Total Canberra First 3885 2.74%
Family Team 2929 2.06%
Bev Cains 686 0.48%
Ron Gane 26 0.02%
Bill Fearon 22 0.02%
Dennis Meagher 34 0.02%
Drewe Just 12 0.01%
Total Family Team 3885 2.74%
Australian Democrats 1720 1.21%
Arminel Ryan 515 0.36%
Bill Mason 47 0.03%
Heather Jeffcoat 68 0.05%
Total Australian Democrats 2350 1.66%
National Party 1477 1.04%
David Adams 380 0.27%
Michael Mullins 58 0.04%
Bruce MacKinnon 32 0.02%
Total National Party 1947 1.37%
Sun Ripened Warm Tomato Party 1165 0.82%
Emile Brunoro 453 0.32%
Rick Kenny 48 0.03%
Total Sun Ripened Warm Tomato 1666 1.17%
Party!Party!Party! 733 0.52%
Amanda Call 200 0.14%
Shane McMillan 46 0.03%
Total Party!Party!Party 979 0.69%
Christian Alternative Party 580 0.41%
Nathan Stirling 222 0.16%
Bernadette Ibell 44 0.03%
Total Christian Alternative Party 846 0.60%
Socialist Workers Party 483 0.34%
Kristian Whittaker 230 0.16%
Total Socialist Workers Party 713 0.50%
Sleepers Wake 120 0.08%
John Bellamy 53 0.04%
Total Sleepers Wake 173 0.12%
Surprise Party 124 0.09%
C.J.Burns 42 0.03%
Total Surprise Party 166 0.12%
Disabled and Redeployed Workers Party 106 0.07%
Peter Burrows 50 0.04%
Derek Robinson 7 0.00%
Total Disabled and Redeployed Workers Party 140 0.10%
Tony Spagnolo Independent for Canberra 75 0.05%
Tony Spagnolo 65 0.00%
Total Tony Spagnolo Independent for Canberra 140 0.10%
A Better Idea 64 0.05%
Michael Scurfield 16 0.01%
Total A Better Idea 80 0.06%
Home Rule OK 41 0.03%
Tony Boye 21 0.01%
Total Home Rule OK 62 0.04%
Independent candidates
Bill Mackey 5686 4.01%
Harold Hird 1872 1.32%
Lyall Gillespie 522 0.37%
Frank Crnkovic 445 0.31%
Bill Pye 414 0.31%
John Rocke 149 0.11%
Bob Reid 121 0.09%
Gary Pead 75 0.05%
Tony Boye 60 0.04%

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Canada 2015-What does it mean for political reform?

At this point, it should now be clear that the Liberal Party of Canada has won the 2015 Canadian election, with 184 seats to 99 for the Conservative Party, 44 for the New Democrats, 10 for the Bloc Quebecois, and a single seat for the Green Party. The Liberals will have a majority of 14 in the new parliament.

This is a fairly unexpected result. The campaign period saw the Liberals pull out a narrow lead over the Conservatives, with the NDP relegated to third place. However, in the end, it appears pollsters overstated the NDP vote at the expense of the Liberals. This may have been because NDP voters tactically switched to the Liberals to prevent a Conservative government. At this point, it's a bit unclear. Canada's polling industry has had some significant errors recently; for example, all polls for the 2013 British Columbian election had the NDP in the lead, but the Liberals actually won. This is a less egregious error, and it has to be seen in the context of a long and complicated election campaign.

Despite Trudeau's small majority, it's certain that he will be able to pass his agenda through the House of Commons. Canada has strongly disciplined parties, and in the last parliament, even the most rebellious of MPs voted with their parties more than 95% of the time. The NDP will also offer support on some issues.

One interesting thing about this election is its similarity to the last one. The below image shows the results of both elections, side by side.
Click on the image for a larger size
While the colours change, the ratio is the same. There is a government party, with a small majority. The opposition has about 30% of the seats, and the third party has 10-12%. The fourth party is very minor, although the identity of this one has not changed. 

The above chart shows that the 2015 and 2011 results are perhaps a return to pre-1993, when Canada had a complete three-party system. The emergence of the Bloc and the splitting of the right between the Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party changed this, but both of these trends have now seemingly reversed.

Whether this will last is, again, unclear. However, I think it is very likely that the current state of affairs will persist. The Bloc polled badly despite Giles Duceppe's return as leader, and the Greens are shrinking. Of course, freak events like the NDP surge in 2011 might happen, and no one can really tell what the future holds. Trudeau may perform badly, and disappoint NDP or Conservative switchers. Or the Conservatives might split, or the Bloc might make a comeback. Who knows?

The election and political reform

Trudeau faces one issue when he gets into office. The Senate of Canada, a wholly appointed body, currently has a Conservative majority. There are 47 Conservative Senators, to 29 Liberal (affilated) Senators and seven independents. Now, this looks bad, but it is important to note that this is not the entire Senate. There are 22 seats that have fallen vacant, but have not had appointed members. Former Prime Minister Harper did not appoint people to these seats, as part of his sporadic enthusiasm for Senate reform.

Normally, Trudeau would appoint Liberals to all 22 seats, and that would be that. However, there are two factors in play here that will make this harder. First of all, the Liberals do not actually have a Senate caucus. Trudeau expelled all Liberal Senators from the party caucus in 2014, although the Senators quickly decided to call themselves Independent Liberals (a genius plan! How could Trudeau have seen it coming?).

Of course, this is fine for the current Senators. But Trudeau now has to make appointments. He is faced with the dilemma of having made promises not to appoint any Liberals, and having to appoint enough Senators who will toe the Liberal line in order to pass his agenda. One of those things may have to go, and I am willing to reckon it will be not appointing Liberals.

The other issue is that Trudeau will apparently not be in control of Senate appointments. The Liberal platform calls for the creation of a "new, non-partisan, merit-based process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments". What this will exactly look like is really, really unclear. However, such a vague commitment gives the Liberals no shortage of room to wriggle out of this commitment. While this may seem cynical, I think that the 22 new Senators will most likely be fairly supportive of the Liberal Party.

Electoral reform is another matter. The Liberals made a more specific promise in this area, saying that they are "committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the post voting system". They say that they will convene a committee to discuss ideas, and then within 18 months they will pass legislation to introduce a new electoral system.

Of course, it's kind of hard to tell what system the Liberals will introduce. However, one can guess that they might go with some form of preferential voting, most likely single-transferable vote in single member districts/preferential voting/alternative vote. As the centrist party, they will receive preferences from the Conservatives against the New Democrats (although, if it is optional preferential, this flow will be fairly weak) and New Democrat and Green preferences against the Conservatives. It may be a way to solve the vote-splitting issue on the Canadian left without a merger of the two major parties, which would be acrimonious. Single-member districts will likely be maintained; only the much reduced NDP and the unimportant Greens have consistently been in favour of proportional representation with multi-member districts.

I would expect such a change to be heavily resisted by the Conservatives, who will try to block it in the Senate. They will argue that the proposal will not have democratic legitimacy, as it has not been presented to voters. If the Liberals have trouble passing it through the Senate (not likely), they might resort to a referendum on the issue.

The Canadian Senate has seemingly survived this election, although some more scandals may put Trudeau under pressure to make more changes. However, from a tactical perspective, electoral reform would be one Liberal promise worth keeping.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

European Radicals-Ireland

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007, and its impact on debt in European countries, has had a far-reaching impact on politics in Europe, especially in the nations hit by debt. Countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Ireland have gone through dramatic political change as a result of the crisis and the response of governments.

But have these changes lasted? As the worst of the crisis passes, have the new parties that popped up hung around, or have they collapsed? The fact is that there are examples that go both ways. Some of the parties have succeeded, and others have failed; this depends on the issues the parties are feeding off, the issues that are salient in the country, and the performance of the parties in the government (if they have been given any power).


Ireland was one of the hardest hit nations by the global financial crisis. Traditionally, it has been governed by the Fianna Fail party, which was formed in 1926. Describing Fianna Fail's position on the issues is not easy; they have been described as 'populist' and 'catch-all'. The traditional Irish opposition is Fine Gael, a party that is similar to Fianna Fail (although their main bit of ideology is 'not Fianna Fail'). Ireland's other significant party up to this point was the Labour Party, which is a traditional European social democratic party, but much electorally weaker than most European social democratic parties (its strongest electoral performance was 20% in 1992).

Fianna Fail governed Ireland almost consistently from 1932 to 1973, with only two breaks of short Fine Gael government when all members of the opposition teamed up. Ireland uses the single transferable vote, but with low district magnitude (between 3-5 members per district; 3.8 on average), this is not especially proportional. This meant that under this period, Fianna Fail either had a small majority of seats or a narrow minority, off 42-50% of the vote.

A more competitive political period began in 1973. At this election, Fianna Fail was defeated, and was replaced by a coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour. This government lasted its full term, before Fianna Fail returned to office in 1977 with a comfortable majority. This government lasted for only a short time; Irish governments at this point were under much pressure, due to the fighting in the North. The candidacy of strong supporters of Northern Ireland's reunification with Ireland attracted some sympathy, which put further pressure on governments, because in tight parliaments governments might need their support.

During the 1980s, five elections took place. All but one resulted in a change of government (from Fianna Fail to Fine Gael-Labour or Fine Gael minority or vice versa). This period ended with the election of a Fianna Fail government in 1987, which served in minority for two years before being re-elected in 1989, this time in coalition with the liberal Progressive Democrats.

In 1992, another election took place. This saw a dramatic increase in seats for the Labour Party, which won 33 seats and 19% of the vote. Fianna Fail was significantly short of a majority, but was nonetheless the largest party by a long way. After a long process, they decided to form a coalition with the Labour Party, which was rather unusual; Labour were traditionally allied with Fianna Fail. This coalition did not last very long, and in 1994 Labour formed a coalition with Fine Gael and the socialist Democratic Left party.

Labour were punished at the 1997 election for their decision to go into government with Fianna Fail. They lost half of their seats. This meant that the incumbent Fine Gael-Labour government would not be able to continue in office, despite gains made by Fine Gael. Fianna Fail teamed up with the Progressive Democrats and a few independents, and Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern was elected Prime Minister.

This coalition was continued after the 2002 election, despite dramatic losses for Fine Gael changing the balance of power somewhat. However, the Progressive Democrats were wiped out in 2007, so Fianna Fail had to deal with the Green Party, which had won a record 6 seats, as well as independents. Shortly after this election, Bertie Ahern was resigned and was replaced by Brian Cowen, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.

Over the next few years, Ireland's economy was placed under serious stress. Irish banks were unstable, and the government passed legislation bailing them out. This, of course, was not cheap, and in order to pay for it the government needed to make cuts to other services. Generous spending promises made in previous years had to be rescinded, and this caused many political headaches for the government, which fell to second place in local and European elections in 2009. The Green Party were wiped out entirely. Ahern was forced to ask for a bailout from the European Union in 2010, further eroding support for the government.

Independents that had backed the government were quickly withdrawing their support, and the Green Party was getting restless. In January 2011, the Green Party formally resigned from the government, and Ahern called an election for 25 February, before resigning as Fianna Fail leader (but not as PM): he was replaced in that capacity by Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.

Martin was placed in a virtually impossible position. Fianna Fail, the party which had finished first in almost every Irish election under the Republic, had a one in front of their vote. They were in third place, behind Fine Gael and Labour. Fine Gael had consistently been in first place since the beginning of the crisis, for the first time in their history. Labour, too, had massively benefited. Strong polling results, including some showing Labour in first place, led the party to start the campaign with hopes of something other than the junior partner in a coalition.

As the campaign begun, though, it became abundantly clear that Fine Gael, under the leadership of Enda Kenny, would win first place by a wide margin; indeed, at some points it looked like Fine Gael would win a majority. A large number of new independents with vague promises of 'new politics', as well as a number of new far-left parties and Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein, as some of you will know, is a party strongly in favour of merging Northern Ireland with the Republic. It has been considered by many to have been the political arm of the Irish Liberation Army, the terrorist group responsible for many bombings and killings in the United Kingdom during the 1970s and 80s. They normally only contested elections for the UK and devolved parliaments in the North, but they started contesting elections in the Republic in 1982. They did not win seats for quite a while, and remained fairly minor up until the economic crisis, at which point their economically leftist views gained traction.

The results of the election saw Fianna Fail poll disastrously. They fell from 41.6% of the vote and 77 seats in 2007 to just 17.5% of the vote and 20 seats, and they went from having at least one member in each constituency to having seats in only 18 of 43 of the constituencies. Fine Gael gained significant number of seats, going from 27.3% and 51 seats to 36% and 76 seats, while Labour made substantial gains, going from 10% and 20 seats to 19.5% and 37 seats; while they made gains, they were well short of Fine Gael. Sinn Fein won 14 seats, a gain of ten, and the new socialist parties and independents won 2.7% and 5 seats.

Independents overall made significant gains from the election. While Fianna Fail had mostly taken the political blame for the crisis, the whole political system was tainted by the crisis. Independents were viewed as anti-politics as usual, and as a result people were motivated to vote for them to protest. In total, 12% of votes were cast for independent candidates. Of course, independent candidates are not a monolith, and the candidates elected were of vaguely different affiliations. Two independents were considered right-wing, five left-wing, five elected on local issues, and two did not fit into any of these categories. A diverse bunch, certainly.

While certain other options were considered, including a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition, it was eventually decided that a Fine Gael-Labour coalition would be best. Opposition to this deal came mostly from within Labour; some members felt that it would be best for Fine Gael to take the fall for implementing harsh economic measures, leaving Labour with a strong run at the next election. Nonetheless, it was decided that Labour would enter government by the party conference.

Labour voters, of course, were not happy with the policy decisions made by the coalition. Neither, it turned out, were Fine Gael voters. While the coalition polled 55.5% at the election, one year later it was closer to 44-46%, and in another year it had sunk to 40%.

The major beneficiaries of this fall were Sinn Fein, who went from 10% to the high teens and low twenties by 2013. With Labour in government with Fine Gael, and therefore unable to convincingly express anti-austerity views, Sinn Fein were placed in the position of anti-austerity party. This was certainly an electorally advantageous one.

Independents also made dramatic gains, both outside the Dail (parliament) and inside it. By 2013, the total number of people who intended to vote 'other' had reached 18-20%. This included the far-left groups, but they were usually very minor. Independents also made gains from the other parties in the Dail. Sixteen members of parties left them to become independent, although some rejoined their old parties or joined new parties later on. Fianna Fail did not gain much, although they returned to the lead for a short period at the start of 2013, which was more due to the drop in Fine Gael's vote than any surge for Fianna Fail.

In 2014, the first national elections took place since 2011. These were for the European Parliament and local councils. These elections would have no actual impact on the government, but they would be a test of whether the dismal poll numbers for Labour and Fine Gael were real. It turned out that they were.

In terms of vote, Fianna Fail came first narrowly, with 22.3%. However, poor preferences from the other parties in Dublin (where their candidate won 12.6% compared to 10.2% for independent Nessa Childers, who received a stronger preference flow from other parties and was elected) and a close call in Midlands-North West (where their candidate was defeated for the last seat by 275 votes, or 0.04%) meant that they only ended up with one seat out of 11, losing two from their already poor result (24.1% of the vote) in 2009.

This is what is meant when certain people characterise STV as only semi-proportional; low district magnitude (on average, 3.7 members per constituency for the European elections) and the impact of transfers can mean that seat results do not necessarily closely match vote results. While this is not especially obvious in large elections, like for the Dail, it is a bit clearer in low-magnitude European elections.

Fianna Fail also ran too many candidates. Their running of two candidates in Midlands-North West was also blamed for the poor result, as only about 61% of the vote from second candidate Thomas Byrne went to number one candidate Pat Gallagher. Had there been only one candidate, it would have been likely that some of Byrne's votes that exhausted would go to Gallagher. Clearly, Fianna Fail still has delusions of its pre-2009 days.

Fine Gael won slightly fewer (425 votes, or 0.02%) votes than Fianna Fail, but nonetheless ended up with four seats. This was mostly due to the result in the South, where Fianna Fail's leading candidate Brian Crowley won 27%. This meant that that too many Fianna Fail votes were tied up with him, and so second Fianna Fail candidate Kieran Hartley was excluded too early. As a result, Fianna Fail's 32% was rewarded with one seat, while Fine Gael's better divided 28% won two seats.

While in terms of parties Sinn Fein finished third, in total independent candidates did better. In total, independents won 19.8% and three seats: one in Dublin and one in Midlands-North West. Independent candidates were good at picking up preferences from other candidates, which gave them an advantage. The average Independent candidate was elected with 13.37% of the vote, compared to 17.18% for the average elected party candidate and an average quota of 21.7%. Clearly, independents had some support in Ireland. This is odd for European elections. Only two other independents were elected in the rest of Europe.

Sinn Fein polled strongly. They won 19.5% (not far off their performance in the North) and three seats. They won one seat in each district, partially thanks to their strategy of running a single candidate which represented a better self-assessment of their support then Fianna Fail's.The three seats allowed Ireland to be one of two nations (the other being Greece) where the far-left group won (equal) first place. This is very strong, considering Ireland has traditionally been a very weak nation for the left.

Labour polled dismally, winning only 5.3% of the vote and no seats, a loss of three. Their vote plummeted by nearly 9%, and none of their candidates even came close to winning a seat. Indeed, they ended up only slightly ahead of the Green Party, which won 4.9% and no seats.

Local elections were similar in terms of vote, although the larger number of seats and the larger magnitude meant that Fianna Fail's first place win was recognised in terms of council seats. As is not unusual in local council elections in many countries, Independents polled strongly. Labour lost Dublin council, and Sinn Fein won the most seats there. A by-election in Dublin South-West saw the far-left Anti-Austerity Alliance win the seat, despite Sinn Fein polling in first place.

The disastrous election results for Labour meant that leader Eamon Gilmore's time was up. He resigned in July 2014, and was replaced by senior minister and long-time Labour Dail member Joan Burton. Burton has so far failed to improve the party's dismal polling, however.

So, about four and a half years after the most dramatic election in Ireland's political history, what has changed? Well, quite a bit. Fine Gael is battered and bruised after a term in government in which they have had to make unpopular decisions, and they will certainly have fewer seats after the next election; the same anti-incumbent tendency that destroyed Fianna Fail in 2011 will have a dramatic impact on Fine Gael. However, as a right-wing party, more of their voters will approve of cuts to public spending.

Labour does not have this lenience from their base. Their junior position in the coalition meant that they were taken along on cuts to public spending disliked by their voters, which has had a dramatic effect on their vote. They are polling in the single digits, and it is probable that they will lose many seats indeed.

Their status as the leading left-wing party will likely be taken by Sinn Fein. As Sinn Fein has no record in government, they will be able to run with a clean record, like SYRIZA in Greece. Their polling has been in the low twenties and high teens, though, and their lack of experience may mean that they run too many or too few candidates to take advantage of their surge in support.

Of course, the Independents will also be an important presence in the new parliament. Polling on independents has been fairly inconsistent, perhaps due to the inclusion of small parties in the question. However, the European and local results suggest that the vast majority of the other vote is for independents. A parliament with significant numbers of independents will present challenges to the government, especially if it does not have a majority. Parties, which usually vote coherently, are easier to manage than large numbers of independents. One way of dealing with them might be pork-barrelling in their districts; this happened in the past when governments depended on independents.

It seems implausible that any single party will come close to a majority, and it certainly seems unlikely that the government will come close to a majority. Fine Gael will likely be the largest party, too, with 25-30%. I see it as likely that there are two options for government; a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance or a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein alliance. Either could include Labour's few members.

Both of these options are very unusual. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are ideologically similar, but have never formed government due to long-held antipathy after the Irish Civil War. A Fine Gael-Sinn Fein deal would be even more controversial, however. The issue would be with Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein are strongly in favour of Northern Ireland becoming a part of the Republic; indeed, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has long been accused of being a member of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist group. A government in the Republic with a strong position on this issue could endanger the fragile peace (which has become even more fragile in recent months) and thus a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail deal, maybe with Labour, would be the most likely outcome.

In any case, the Irish election demonstrates a case where dramatic political change has been more long-lasting. Fianna Fail are no longer the dominant party they once were. Perhaps this will change, perhaps not; the impact of a likely stint in government as the junior coalition partner is unlikely to help much. The unique part in Ireland is the gain for Independents; perhaps this is the Irish version of the fragmentation that other countries have seen in recent years. Sinn Fein are the version of the new political movement, replacing Labour. They are similar to new movements in Spain and Greece, although the nationalist dimension adds something new to the equation. Ireland is an unusual case of political change, but certainly a dramatic one.