Polls open in Irish general election

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Media captionRepublic of Ireland election 2020 – what you need to know

Voters are going to the polls in the Republic of Ireland’s general election.

Polls opened at 07:00 local time and will close at 22:00.

Counting will begin on Sunday in all 39 constituencies. Newly elected TDs will gather on 20 February for the 33rd Dáil (Irish parliament).

A total of 160 representatives will be returned to the Dáil. The ceann comhairle, or speaker, is automatically re-elected.

The election is Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar’s first as taoiseach (Irish prime minister).

Opinion polls suggest the election is likely to be a three-way contest between Fine Gael, Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, led by Mary Lou McDonald.

In most situations, the speaker does not vote, so a government will need 80 TDs to hold a majority.

It is unlikely that any party will reach that number, so another coalition government is probable.

The election uses proportional representation with a single transferrable vote.

Image copyright Brian Lawless/PA
Image caption Election workers check the seals on ballot boxes in Dublin ahead of Saturday’s general election

Voters write “1” opposite their first choice candidate, “2” opposite their second choice, “3” opposite their third choice and so on.

People living on 12 islands off the coasts of counties Galway, Mayo and Donegal voted on Friday.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Gola Island, off the coast of Donegal, was one of 12 offshore islands which voted a day early

Legislation to allow islanders to vote on the same day as other voters had not been passed by the time the general election was called.

Traditionally, islanders have voted ahead of the rest of the country to ensure that bad weather does not hamper the return of ballot boxes to the mainland in time for the count, which will start on Sunday.

About 2,100 island residents were eligible to vote.

It is the first time that a general election in the Republic of Ireland has been held on a Saturday.

At 22:00 local time on Saturday, an Ipsos MRBI exit poll commissioned by RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and University College Dublin will be published.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51416540

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