Michael D. Higgins wins Irish presidential election
Baku, October 29 (AZERTAC). Michael D. Higgins will become Ireland`s next president after his main rival conceded defeat on Friday to the 70-year-old poet and former arts minister.
"In the last hour I`ve called Michael D. Higgins to congratulate him on his performance and his success in this election," Sean Gallagher, an independent candidate and businessman, said in a statement.
Higgins had 39.6 percent of the first preference votes under Ireland`s complicated electoral system.
Gallagher, a shaven-headed entrepreneur who won fame from the reality TV show "Dragons Den", was on 28.5 per cent and Sinn Fein`s Martin McGuinness, the former IRA paramilitary commander who is now the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, on 13.7 per cent. There were four other candidates.
The outcome represents a remarkable turnaround for Higgins, who was trailing far behind Gallagher in opinion polls going into the final week of campaigning. But the shaven-headed entrepreneur`s lead melted away after McGuinness accused him of collecting a 5,000-euro donation from a convicted criminal in a stormy live televised debate on Monday.
Gallagher bitterly denied having handled it and accused McGuinness of launching a "political assassination" attempt, but the damage was done.
Observers said McGuinness appeared to have succeeded in convincing voters that Gallagher was more deeply involved than he said with Fianna Fail, his former party which lost heavily in February`s general election as it took the blame for Ireland`s economic crisis.
Higgins will succeed Belfast-born Mary McAleese, who has served the maximum of two seven-year terms as the figurehead of the republic which required an 85 billion euro international bail-out last year. He is a veteran intellectual who has written two volumes of poetry and has been a MP since the early 1980s. Independent Senator David Norris, the first openly gay presidential candidate, was set to finish fourth.
The single transferable vote system was used, whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference. Candidates are eliminated one by one and their votes redistributed until one has an absolute majority.