Prime Minister Enda Kenny has announced that the nation will vote Feb. 26 in an election that pits his coalition government against opposition leaders critical of his handling of Ireland's bailout and economic recovery.

Kenny made the widely anticipated announcement Wednesday after meeting President Michael D. Higgins to confirm an official election date. Politicians had expressed a unified view that the vote would be held Feb. 26.

Kenny gained power in 2011 shortly after Ireland negotiated a European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout for Ireland, which had reached the brink of bankruptcy because of the crippling costs of a bank-rescue program. Ireland exited the bailout in 2013, repaid IMF loans early and today boasts Europe's fastest rate of economic growth.