Opposition candidates favored as Irish voters in 2 districts fill empty seats in parliament

Voters are deciding who should fill two empty seats in Ireland's parliament in a test of the government's unpopularity following years of tax hikes and spending cuts.

Analysts are forecasting opposition victories in Friday's by-elections to fill two seats for southwest Dublin and the western rural district of Roscommon-South Leitrim. Results are expected Saturday.

Both districts feature pockets of poverty and abandoned construction projects, a legacy of the 2008 collapse of Ireland's credit-fueled Celtic Tiger boom. Left-wing opposition candidates critical of the austerity-enforcing government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny are the favorites to win both contests.

The two seats became vacant in May when their holders — one from Kenny's Fine Gael party — won seats in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Kenny's two-party government faces re-election by March 2016.