Ireland's victorious opposition eyes government options

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 27, 2011 19:20 hrs

Ireland’s victorious opposition party Fine Gael set the stage on Sunday for coalition talks with its traditional partner Labour next week after a historic election that crushed its long-time rival Fianna Fail.

The centre-right Fine Gael, swept into power on a wave of voter anger over the country’s financial meltdown, is under pressure to form a government quickly as it seeks to persuade Europe to relax the terms of a bailout it fears will bankrupt the former "Celtic Tiger" economy.

On course for a record 75 plus seats, the pro-business, low tax party is however set to fall short of an overall majority in the 166-seat lower chamber.

It will most likely open talks with the centre-left Labour, on course for its own record showing, to form a coalition with a large majority. But publicly, it was keeping its options open.

It says it will wait for the last seats to be filled to give it the dominant hand it would like to take into negotiations.

"The difficulty will be that both will feel they’re going in to the talks after their best election ever and will therefore feel that they shouldn’t give in on anything," Eoin O’Malley of Dublin City University told Reuters.

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