DUBLIN (AP) — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny won narrow re-election Friday on his fourth try, ending 70 days of deadlock and clearing the way for an exceptionally fragile minority government.
Kenny received 59 votes, with 49 against, in the 158-member parliament — by far the fewest votes ever received for a winning premier in Ireland, a nation used to coalition governments with stable majorities. Speculation mounted on how long this government, dozens of votes short of a majority, might survive.
In his victory speech, a subdued Kenny appealed to opposition lawmakers to "work in partnership together to build a better Ireland. It will be a real test of our democracy, of our character and indeed of this house — a test I am convinced we will pass."
Kenny had governed Ireland for the past five years atop a two-party government sporting the biggest majority in Irish history. But voters angered by the economic burden of Ireland's successful 2013 exit from an international bailout scattered their support to socialist protest parties and independents in the Feb. 26 election.
Kenny's center-right Fine Gael party suffered losses but retained its top position in parliament. However, Kenny's coalition ally in the left-wing Labour Party was decimated, leaving him without a viable majority partner.
Now, Fine Gael will stay in government only with external support from its age-old enemy, Fianna Fail.
The parties have never shared power since Ireland's 1920s independence from Britain, when the two took opposite sides in a fratricidal civil war. Fianna Fail rebuffed Kenny's weeks-long effort to form a majority coalition.
Friday's breakthrough become possible once Fianna Fail accepted a compromise plan for government that its lawmakers pledged to support from outside government ranks on a vote-by-vote basis over the coming three years.
Kenny had lost three previous leadership votes since the election as Fianna Fail's 44 lawmakers blocked his nomination. This time they abstained, opening the door for Kenny to win a majority of votes cast. Kenny received 50 from his own party and nine from independents, three of whom are expected to receive Cabinet seats as part of the bargain.