DUBLIN (Reuters) - Combined support for Ireland’s coalition parties rose above 40 percent in a major opinion poll for the first time in almost two years on Sunday, putting them within striking distance of re-election early next year.
With Prime Minister Enda Kenny expected to call elections for late February or early March, his Fine Gael party rose one percentage point to 32 percent in the Sunday Business Post/Red C poll with junior partners Labour up two points to nine percent.
Fine Gael has risen steadily all year as Ireland’s economic outgrows the rest of Europe for a second successive year and the poll marked the center-right party’s best showing in the series since 2012, only four points behind its 2011 election mark.
Fine Gael’s nearest rival in the poll, left-wing Sinn Fein, rose one point to 19 percent while center-right Fianna Fail fell two to 17 percent, meaning it would take a huge swing in opinion to deny Kenny the chance to form the next government.
He will campaign to return with Labour Adrian Kavanagh, a politics lecturer at National University Ireland Maynooth who conducts constituency level analysis on each opinion poll, said the parties were just five seats short of the 79 needed to form a majority.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky