Mr Kenny received 59 votes, with 49 against, in the 158-member parliament – by far the fewest votes ever received for a winning premier in Ireland, a nation used to coalition governments with stable majorities. Speculation has mounted on how long this government, well short of a majority, might survive. In his victory speech, Mr Kenny appealed to opposition MPs to “work in partnership together to build a better Ireland”.
Mr Kenny had governed Ireland for the past five years within a two-party government sporting the biggest majority in Irish history. However, voters, angered by the economic burden of Ireland’s successful 2013 exit from an international bailout, gave their support to socialist protest parties and independents in the 26 February election.
Fine Gael will now stay in government only with external support from its age-old enemy, Fianna Fail.
The parties have never shared power since Ireland’s 1920s independence from Britain, when the two took opposite sides in the civil war.
The breakthrough become possible once Fianna Fail accepted a compromise plan for government that its MPs pledged to support from outside government ranks on a vote-by-vote basis over the coming three years.
With Fianna Fail’s 44 MPs abstaining from the leadership vote, Mr Kenny received 50 from his own party and nine from independents, three of whom are expected to receive Cabinet seats.