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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Irish Voters Cast Their Ballots In Tight Parliamentary Election

DUBLIN -- Irish voters headed for the polls Thursday in an election so close that Prime Minister Bertie Ahern may have to lure a major left-leaning opponent onto his side to stay in power.

Fine Gael, the main opposition party, is fighting to unseat Ahern on a joint platform with the Labour party, but they may fail to win enough seats even if they do get the backing of the so-far unaligned Green Party in a "rainbow coalition."

Labour, Sinn Fein and the Green Party are potential kingmakers in an election where the governing coalition of the centrist Fianna Fail and the pro-business Progressive Democrats, will fall short of a majority.

Ahern might have expected an easy win after helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland, while his country became one of Europe's wealthiest nations.

But his campaign for a third successive term got off to a wobbly start after fresh allegations over payments from friends and businessmen in the 1990s when he was finance minister.

"Voting Labour would normally be the last thing I would do," said Ruth Jenkinson, 31, a self-employed businesswoman, as she cast her vote in leafy south Dublin. "But arrogance and complacency have been creeping in to ministerial posts and power does breed corruption, especially if a party has been in power for too long."

The opposition also tapped into a sense that wealth generated by Ireland's so-called Celtic Tiger boom is being squandered.

Some now see a Fianna Fail-Labour government as the most likely outcome.

Polls closed Thursday evening with counting to begin Friday morning. A close result may lead to days of horse-trading as parties try to cobble together a majority.