Election fever is cranking up, with the Government setting in train plans to have ballot papers ready to go in the event of a snap general election. The Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government has sought bids from suppliers to provide four million ballot papers for the 39 Dáil constituencies in the next general election.
Although the election must be held by April 10, 2020 at the latest, most political observers believe it will be called much sooner, even before the end of the year.
The Government must also prepare for four upcoming byelections, following the recent election of four TDs — Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher and Independents 4 Change’s Mick Wallace and Clare Daly — to the European Parliament.
The byelections, which are due in Dublin Mid-West, Cork North Central, Wexford, and Dublin Fingal, must be held within six months of the TDs vacating their Dáil seats.
The prospect of a snap general election later this year has increased as newspaper reports claim that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is preparing to seek a third term in office for Fine Gael before the end of the year, in the event of a Brexit deal being negotiated by the end of October.
It is understood Fine Gael strategists believe the party’s best chance of returning to government is to go for an early general election, if the UK can avoid a no-deal Brexit by its latest deadline for leaving the EU, October 31.
A decision to go with a November date would also avoid the need for the four by-elections, which could also potentially reduce the numbers in favour of the confidence-and-supply arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that is keeping the Government in power.
Although a general election is unlikely amid the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, it is increasingly anticipated that either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, or both, will favour an early election date, once the nature of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is clear.
The Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government has sought bids for the printing, supply, and distribution of an estimated four million ballot papers, as well as 24,000 posters.
The tender has been split into four lots to cover the 39 constituencies. The department has estimated it will spend €570,000, excluding VAT, on the cost of the ballot papers.