FG leadership: Varadkar expected to win as voting closes today

Parliamentary party voting begins this morning with a result expected before 6pm

Harry McGee meets the hot favourite to become next Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and asks him about the pressures of the job, building bridges with Simon Coveney and his plans for the first 100 days. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar remains the strong favourite to be declared the new Fine Gael leader when the votes in the leadership election are counted on Friday afternoon, with a result expected before 6pm.

Voting for the parliamentary party commences at 8am on Friday morning, with both sides expressing optimism about the outcome, but little sign that Simon Coveney has achieved the comeback necessary to overhaul the lead enjoyed by his rival Mr Varadkar.

  • FG leadership tracker: track the contest and check who your local TD, Senator, MEP and councillor is supporting 

Both candidates were engaged in a final round of last-minute campaigning on the phone on Thursday night, with sources saying Mr Coveney was urging TDs to change their declared intention.

Voting intention

The Irish Times tracker of voting intention of the parliamentary party and councillors shows that Mr Varadkar has the declared support of 46 of the party’s 73-strong parliamentary party, while Mr Coveney has 21 publicly promised votes. Six are undeclared.

Mr Varadkar also has the support of 119 councillors, with 74 backing Mr Coveney and 42 undeclared.

About 21,000 Fine Gael members were eligible to vote, though party officials expect a turnout of about 50 per cent

The parliamentary party comprises 65 per cent of the votes in the leadership contest and the councillors 10 per cent, with the remaining 25 per cent decided by the members. Mr Varadkar’s present level of declared support gives him 46 per cent of the votes even before the votes of the membership are counted.

Voting for members and councillors, which has been ongoing at locations around the country since Monday evening, concluded on Thursday night. The polls will open at Leinster House for the party’s 73 TDs, senators and MEPs on Friday morning. About 21,000 Fine Gael members were eligible to vote, though party officials expect a turnout of about 50 per cent.

Ballot boxes

The polls in Leinster House for the parliamentary party will close at noon. Meanwhile, ballot boxes from polling stations around the country will be transferred on Friday morning to the Mansion House in Dublin, where the count is expected to begin at 2pm.

The members’ votes will be counted first, followed by the votes of the councillors, and finally the votes of the parliamentary party members, with a declaration expected before 6pm.

The result of each vote will be declared after it is counted. A big victory for Mr Coveney amongst the members could indicate that a shock is on the cards, though there was little expectation of this amongst Fine Gael sources on Thursday night.