Philip Stephens: Ireland confirms death of two party politics in Europe

The outcome of the general election is following a well-trodden route

A ballot paper is seen as Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnelly topped the poll in Dublin West on February 9, 2020 . (Photo by Donall Farmer/Getty Images)

A ballot paper is seen as Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnelly topped the poll in Dublin West on February 9, 2020 . (Photo by Donall Farmer/Getty Images)

Politics has been turned inside out. Europe is waving goodbye to the two-party politics that shaped its democracies. Voter preferences have fragmented, so coalitions that were once contained within opposing parties of the centre-right and centre-left must somehow be reassembled outside of them. Bargains hammered out in back rooms must now be negotiated between parties operating in the full public glare. Political leaders are struggling to adjust.

Europe, of course, has always had more than its share of coalition governments. The difference is that, with the occasional exception, they acted as the rotating door for a couple of dominant parties. The outcome of the general election in Ireland has offered confirmation, if any were needed, of the new trend.

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