Irish PM eyes May 2020 general election

Dublin (AFP) –


Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar revealed Thursday that he wants to hold an early general election in May 2020.

Varadkar, 40, said it would be the "right moment" as the Brexit situation with the United Kingdom, Ireland's only land neighbour, should have been resolved by then.

"We should... by then, have secured a Brexit deal or have guided the country through the worst of no-deal," he said, according to national broadcaster RTE.

It would also fall after the March 17 national day and the March European summit, he said.

Ireland is set to be the EU member state most affected by Brexit as its economy is more reliant on trade with Britain than any other country in the bloc.

Brexit is scheduled for October 31, though British MPs want a delay if a divorce deal cannot be struck. Arrangements for the Irish border are the heart of the Brexit crisis.

Since the 2016 general election, Varadkar's Fine Gael party has run a minority government, with the support of their main rivals Fianna Fail, who are led by former foreign minister Micheal Martin.

The lead in the opinion polls over the last six months has swung between the two centre-right parties, ahead of the left-wing Sinn Fein party.

"I believe we can win that election. In fact, I am sure of it," Varadkar told a meeting of his party's MPs.

The prime minister, or taoiseach, can ask the president to dissolve parliament at any time, though the head of state has the right to refuse.

Ireland uses the single transferable vote system, with constituencies returning three to five members to the 158-seat Dail Eireann lower house for a five-year term.