According to figures in the Irish Independent this morning, the turn out for the election of Uachtarán na hÉireann was less than 50%. We will get the exact figure later today when the votes are counted.
That means that one in two people registered to vote don’t care sufficiently about the role of Head of State or who fulfills that position to actually exercise their franchise. Given that a proportion of the population of the Irish people will not have been registered to vote through address changes, failure to re enrol on the electoral register, it means that less than one in two people will have voted for the President. What does that tell you?
The ‘winner’ therefore will likely be elected on say optimistically 35% of that vote. That is in fact a fairly paltry mandate when you extrapolate that out to include the entire population.
In countries such as the Republic of Ireland, the impact of a low turn out is ameliorated slightly by the use of the Proportional Representation Single Transferable Vote. The downside of this electoral system is that many people do not understand that they should vote down the card in order that transfers work properly.
In regards to the election result unfolding today, after all the vitriol, abuse and muck raking, the reality is that after a short period, few people will be in the slightest bit interested what the President does. He/she will make their regular appearances at Rugby internationals and All Ireland Finals. There may be the occasional pronouncement or other but in reality the position of Uachtarán na hÉireann whilst constitutionally relevant is largely irrelevant.
In a country where politicians have suffered from a serious loss of credibility through fault of their own, the Republic of Ireland has completed a Presidential election that has highlighted all that is bad about the country.
It has allowed all sorts of pustules to burst open releasing an infectious and disgusting torrent of poison and invective.
At the end of the process the country will get the person that most of the minority vote for. Then, they will all move on to the next moment of national soul searching.
I for one can’t wait.