SCENARIOS-What could topple Ireland’s government?

DUBLIN, Sept 28 (BestGrowthStock) – The Irish government is close to
losing its parliamentary majority just as it tries to push
through reforms to cut the biggest deficit in the European Union
and fix its banking sector.

With elections usually held up to a month after the
dissolution of parliament and a new government sitting for the
first time up to three weeks later, Dublin is in danger of
becoming a political vacuum.

With members of parliament returning from their summer break
on Wednesday, the following are scenarios that could trigger the
fall of the government.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen needs to find at least 3 billion
euros ($4.04 billion) worth of savings in December’s budget for
2011 but cuts implemented this year, particularly in health
care, have already begun to see his support in parliament fall.

His majority dropped to four seats after an independent MP
withdrew his support last Friday and looked set to slip to two
when a member of his Fianna Fail party threatened to turn his
back on the fast-sinking coalition a day later. [ID:nLDE68O0AL]

The government has said it would not strike any deals to get
those MPs back on side so it simply cannot afford any more
defections ahead of the Dec. 7 budget.

After three austerity budgets in two years, Cowen and
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan have little option but to cut
services – a move that will really hurt the electorate. Analysts
say such a move will force enough defections next year to tip
the balance in a confidence vote and trigger elections before
the 2012 due date.


Cowen is under pressure to hold by-elections to fill three
empty lower chamber seats. He is not obliged to call a vote and
has been putting them off as long as he can but indicated this
month that they would likely take place early next year.

Unless Cowen’s party snap a 28-year trend of governing party
by-election losses, the government’s majority would all but

While the government can only fall if it loses a confidence
vote or vote on a financial bill, failing to win a succession of
ordinary votes would severely undermine its authority and hasten
its exit.


The main opposition party Fine Gael — which polls suggest
will lead a large majority with the Labour party after the next
election — said on Monday it would pull much of the cover it
provides for government MPs absent from parliamentary votes in
an attempt to force a snap election. [ID:nLDE68Q1I6]

Although Fine Gael said it would provide cover for MPs
absent due to illness or abroad on matters of national
importance, their new stance has upped the ante.


There are at least three Fianna Fail MPs, including Finance
Minister Brian Lenihan, who are battling serious illness and if
any of them has to resign because of ill health that would cut
the government’s majority.

Lenihan said earlier this month that treatment for a
cancerous growth found at the entrance to his pancreas had
stabilised the disease.


As the government’s majority slowly slipped from a buffer of
15 seats just over two years ago, it has become increasingly
reliant on the six members of junior partners the Greens.

Legislation introduced by the Greens often jars with some in
Fianna Fail and a clash over a stag hunting law saw one senior
partner lose his party privileges in June after voting against
the government. Measures to curb corporate donations, expected
later this year or early next, could be another pressure point.

The Greens, in danger of losing all of their seats at the
next election, might also look for a reason to pull the
government down early next year if it would boost their


Both Fianna Fail and Cowen have seen their popularity sink
as the fiscal and banking crises worsened. The prime minister’s
suitability came under scrutiny this month following a row over
a radio interview he conducted the morning after partying late
with colleagues.

Some from Cowen’s own party have called for him to step down
but no senior minister seems set yet to mount a challenge.
Another gaffe could change that with any successful challenger
— who would become this term’s third prime minister — likely
to have to go to the polls shortly after taking charge.


While most analysts and politicians expect the budget to
sneak through on a vote and instead see the government falling
sometime next year, were the measures introduced too unpalatable
for enough backbenchers to take, the government would fall.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Carmel
Crimmins/Janet McBride)

SCENARIOS-What could topple Ireland’s government?