Give Me a Crash Course In . . . the left-wing voting pact

Right2Change parties may co-operate on transfers in upcoming general election

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: his party  was one of the first out of the blocks this week to announce it was signing up to Right2Change

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: his party was one of the first out of the blocks this week to announce it was signing up to Right2Change

 

What is the left-wing alliance announced this week? A number of organisations and individuals involved in the anti-water charges movement, which operated under the Right2Water banner, have been discussing the possibility of creating a broader platform of the left for the general election.

The Right2Change movement had a number of “pillars”, including a community pillar, made of community groups, a trade union pillar, and a political pillar. Political parties and TDs involved in the anti-water charges movement were asked to subscribe to broad policy goals as a basis for a future left-wing government.

The policy proposals include: a commitment to eliminate the deficit by 2020; prioritising social and economic investment; doubling public investment; higher taxes on wealth and capital; the abolition of water charges and changes to European fiscal rules.

So who has signed up to it? Sinn Féin was one of the first out of the blocks this week to announce it was signing up to the Right2Change movement. Others who subscribe to it include People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance-Socialist Party, which includes TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger, as well as Independent TDs such as Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Thomas Pringle.

The trade unions involved include Unite, the Communications Worker’s Union, the Operative Plasterers and Allied Trades Society of Ireland (OPATSI), the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) and Mandate.

Will everyone who has signed up to it commit to a vote transfer pact? Not quite. Sinn Féin is fully supportive of a vote transfer pact and will be asking its voters to continue their preferences for other Right2Change groups, such as the People Before Profit and the AAA. However, some are reluctant to return the favour to Sinn Féin. Paul Murphy, Joe Higgins and Thomas Pringle will not ask their supporters to transfer to Gerry Adams’s party.

Pringle – who is likely to be competing with three Sinn Féin candidates in the five-seat Donegal constituency – has said the party is simply trying to maximise its vote.

The differences between Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance are more ideological. The Socialist Party opposed the Good Friday Agreement on the basis that it entrenched a sectarian political system. Higgins has also accused Sinn Féin of being weak in its opposition to austerity and cuts in Northern Ireland.

Others – such as Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit and deputy Joan Collins from Dublin South Central – are in favour of transferring to Sinn Féin. Differences are also emerging within the unions on whether those who sign up to the Right2Change movement must transfer to each other.

Right2Change is to announce the final line-up of those who are affiliated to it at a press conference today.

Who benefits from the pact and policy statements? Many on the left suspect that Sinn Féin jumped the gun in announcing it is in favour of the pact. Some muttered that the party, whose support has dropped back to 16 per cent in recent opinion polls, is doing so only to maximise its appeal.

The party has traditionally had difficulty in attracting transfers, an electoral problem that has cost it Dáil seats. Sinn Féin has countered that those who do not encourage a transfer pact are missing out on a golden opportunity to increase the power and Dáil representation of the left.

What does it mean for the election? While the majority of seats are decided on the strength of first preference votes, the last seat in many constituencies can come down to transfers. A left-wing candidate who is in with a shout may benefit if other left candidates are eliminated or have a surplus.

On the broader electoral picture, the alliance represents a clear divide between the Government bloc of Fine Gael and Labour on the one side, and Sinn Féin and the left on the other. Fianna Fáil, in the middle, could find itself squeezed.

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