It was no longer in doubt Friday night that the winner of the presidential election would be Michael D. Irish Higgins, the Labour candidate before the official declaration of results, expected after a long count. Even his opponent, , favorite to three days before the election on Thursday, called him to congratulate him.
This victory marks a sudden reversal of the electorate compared to predictions of pollsters in recent weeks. The independent businessman Sean Gallagher, who led even the weekend with fifteen points ahead in the polls, collapsed in the final stretch, after a disastrous performance in the final televised debate Monday evening. He did not resist the charges of collusion with the former ruling party Fianna Fail, for which he had organized fundraisers while he had previously denied any political connection. In an exit poll of the public broadcaster RTE, 55% of voters said they had changed their intention to vote after this controversy.
Michael D. Higgins, a distinguished politician of 70 years, has overshadowed the other six candidates, including a good number of independents, which had led analysts to predict a rejection of traditional parties. The former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's candidate would have received 15% of the vote. "Given the uncertainties associated with independent, people preferred the experience," said Elaine Byrne, professor of political science at Trinity College, Dublin.
Poor family, alcoholic father
Small, limping, Higgins, nicknamed "Michael D.," is a veteran of Irish politics. Born in Limerick, on the west coast of the island in a poor family with an alcoholic father, his mother says her education at an uncle and aunt farmers. First in his family to enter university, the intellectual, poet recognized, is fluent in Irish - unlike most of his countrymen, who practice primarily English.
Early on, he started in politics. After Fianna Fail, he quickly joined the Labour Party, Social Democratic, in the center of the Exchequer, now allied with Fine Gael (center right) in a coalition government. Mayor of Galway twice, it is Parliament since 1981 and was Minister of Culture in the 1990s.
During the presidential campaign very hectic, it has sought to avoid personal attacks against his opponents and has campaigned on the theme of "president who will make us proud." In economic crisis, facing a draconian austerity plan, the Presidency, based largely ceremonial, plays an important unifying role for the Irish. A challenge after two seven consecutive of the very popular Mary McAleese.
If participation did not exceed 50%, the victory seems to satisfy the population. "Michael D. is very loved and respected beyond the Labour Party, "said Elaine Byrne.