Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny's ruling coalition of Fine Gael and Labour are set to lose their hold on government, after winning just a combined 34 percent at national elections, an exit poll showed on Friday.
Kenny's centre-right Fine Gael will win the election on 26.1 percent, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll said, with junior partners Labour in line for 7.8 percent of the ballot.
That would put them well short of the 41 percent to 42 percent that Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this week would be needed to form a government and likely leave too big a gap to reach a majority with independent candidates or smaller parties.
Such an outcome would leave an unprecedented and potentially unstable alliance between historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which the exit poll put at 22.9 percent, as potentially the only viable way to break the deadlock.
Michael Ring, a junior minister for Fine Gael, told local radio that such an alliance would have to be considered if the exit poll proves accurate.