DUBLIN – The fate of the party expected to finish second in the Irish elections has emerged as a key issue in the shape of the country's next government.
The leading party, Fine Gael, is running so far ahead of its rivals that it could take enough seats to rule Ireland alone, perhaps with the support of a few independent legislators. The Labour Party, currently second in opinion polls, hopes for a strong enough showing to prevent that, and force its way into a coalition.
Labour once had dreams of leading the next government. Now the party leader, Eamon Gilmore, is pleading for a strong second-place finish. He argues that a coalition government would ensure "a fair, balanced and stable government."