Ireland is facing a “state of paralysis” where power could be handed to civil servants for months because of a schism among voters, Tanaiste Joan Burton has claimed.
Opinion polls showing scores of Independents could be returned to the next Dail could herald the country being plunged into a Greek-style crisis with main parties unable to make up the numbers, she warned.
The Labour leader cautioned voters to “think twice” about taking a “gamble” on a parliament which is so diverse and divergent that it would be “impossible to form a government”.
“Is there going to be a government?” she asked at a press briefing in Ballsbridge, Dublin, just days before the country goes to the polls.
“Look at countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal, where the process of government-making has been stalled for months.
“People are very concerned that progress that has been made (in Ireland) could be either paralysed or stalled, and government will be in a state of paralysis.
“In that situation, it would hand over, presumably, to the civil servants.”
Ms Burton, whose own party has slumped in popularity according to opinion polls over the weekend, said it would be terrible for the country if a stable government could not be formed after Friday.
The Labour leader said there was not enough money in the public purse this time around to do a Bertie Ahern-style deal with a small number of Independents.
The ex-Taoiseach formed past coalitions with the support of non-party candidates in return for spending packages in their constituencies.
Ms Burton said constantly changing demands from a raft of Independents, who could “hijack” the government, would not give the country the stability it needs.
A so-called grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – who would have to set aside their historic Civil War-era rivalry – would be unlikely to deliver the reforms needed for the less well-off, the Tanaiste suggested.
“That essentially would be would be very right of centre,” she said.
The Labour leader also dismissed any possibility of a left-led power-sharing administration.
“Not at this point in time,” she said.
“We have a whole series of populist and supposedly left-wing politicians whose main campaign appears to be to have a debate around how left-wing or how populist they all can be.
“But what they all shy away from is any kind of decision-making.
“Do I think that Sinn Fein at this point in time can lead a government? No, I don’t.”
On her own fate once the ballot boxes open, Ms Burton said she was “very, very confident” of retaining her seat, despite the widespread belief that she will have a fight on her hands in the Dublin West constituency.