February 26, 2016 / 11:20 PM / 2 years ago

Irish PM's coalition set to fall well short of re-election: exit poll

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s ruling coalition of Fine Gael and Labour are set to win a combined 34 percent at national elections, an exit poll showed on Friday, a level that would end their chances of returning to government.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny stands with 88-year-old Bridie McLoughlin in a polling station at St Anthony's School in Castlebar, Ireland February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Kenny’s center-right Fine Gael will win the election on 26.1 percent, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll said, with junior partners Labour in line for 7.8 percent of the ballot.

That would put them well short of the 41 percent to 42 percent that Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this week would be needed to form a government and likely leave too big a gap to reach a majority with independent candidates or smaller parties.

Such an outcome would leave an unprecedented and potentially unstable alliance between historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which the exit poll put at 22.9 percent, as potentially the only viable way to break the deadlock.

Michael Ring, a junior minister for Fine Gael, told Newstalk radio that such an alliance would have to be considered if the exit poll proves accurate.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by G Crosse

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