Irelandâ€™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 countryâ€™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 theyâ€™re going in to the talks after their best election ever and will therefore feel that they shouldnâ€™t give in on anything," Eoin Oâ€™Malley of Dublin City University told Reuters.