One of the over looked aspects of the last week was the calling of the election for the 11th of March. The significance of that date is that it is a Friday. Now traditionally Irish general elections are on a Thursday. Back around the time of the last general election we started a campaign called Work Thursday Vote Saturday. But the election ended up on a Thursday and Bertie Ahern won the election. But can we draw anything from the change to a Friday?
When asked about a Friday election Bertie said.
“I listened to the argument the last time. And it didn’t work. Friday did not work. I was all over the city on the Friday. What people do now is get out of the city on a Friday afternoon. You might say that that would help in the country, but the polls in the city were very, very low after 6 o’clock…
With the clean-up of the register those people are now registered in Dublin. They are registered here.”
Now of course it is quiet possible that those arguing with Bertie was Cowen and he simply likes a Friday poll himself. But lets look at the dynamics of what a Thursday Friday and a Saturday polling day could mean.
Thursday is a working day for most as is Friday. Despite various drives to get people to vote where they live their is still a vast number of young people registered to vote in their home town rather then the city they live in . The reason for this is they were probably put on the register when they were 18 and probably living at home. Living a life of University and work, moving apartments and accommodation every few years most probably use their home address not just for voting but also for bills. It is just handier. This of course means that a thursday vote results in many of 18-30 year olds not being able to vote. Temporal Gerrymandering as someone called it.
Now Friday while a working week allows for the return of young people and students from Dublin or other cities to their home constituencies to vote.
Now Saturday allows along with people moving back from cities, but also people to come back from abroad. I have worked in the UK and France for the last 4 years and I have yet to make it from work to home on a Friday night before midnight. This of course means that voting is imposible for returning emigrants.
Now while technically emigrants can’t vote as they are not residents, due to the problems with the electoral register many of the most recent emigrants are still on the register. (Alas I was taken off quiet a while ago) . Also many of these are probably quiet willing to come back home to vote. Due to the extent of anger and the cheapness of Ryanair.
So what would be the effects of Thursday, Friday and Saturday voting.
Thursday would have a reduced youth turnout. This would effect Labour and Sinn Fein. Resulting in a boosting Fine Gael and Independents.
Friday would cause an increase in youth turnout. This would positively effect Labour and Sinn Fein. Resulting in Fine Gael getting a reduced number of seats as Labour use the youth vote to bolster their support and squeeze the last seat in a few constituencies off Fine Gael.
Saturday would bring the emigrants probably more angry then anyone left in the country and probably more Fianna Fail then anyone. And likely to vote for many independents, Labour and Sinn Fein.
What Fianna Fail need to survive is a Labour/Fine Gael government. A Fine Gael government sans Labour would be a disaster. With a Fine Gael/ Labour government, the head of the opposition would be the leader of Fianna Fail (personally can’t see Sinn Fein getting 20 seats and Fianna Fail i think will get 20-25). Michael Martin or who ever else they have will be the Taoiseach in waiting. A Fine Gael sans Labour government would have Eamon Gilmore as leader of the opposition and the Taoiseach in waiting.
Without Fianna Fail being considered a party of Taoiseach they cease to have a reason d’etre. In Irish politics despite attempts to portray ideology on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. They are basically parties of management the messy business of ideology and principles has been left to Labour, Greens, PDs, Sinn Fein, Socialist Party etc. Without the immediate association with likelihood of management Fianna Fail becomes an umbrella group for independent pothole fixers. Which will slowly disintegrate.
So Fianna Fail has two tasks it needs for its survival in this election, one to get more people elected then Sinn Fein and two get Fine Gael into government with Labour . Because if they manage those tasks they will be back. They fail and Fianna Fail might not live to see 2016.