Today was the close of nominations for anyone wishing to stand in the election and on another day, the story would have been how FF running are running a skeleton number of candidates – just 76, down from 106 in 2007, and not even enough to gain a majority. However the real story is the number of independent candidates. There are conflicting reports over exactly how many there are (Irish Times says 202, RTE is saying 233). But either way – more than one in every three candidates in this election will be independent.
In as much as it’s possible to talk about such a diverse range of candidates under one grouping, these numbers give them critical mass. It’s now a very real possibility that voters will actively decide to vote Independent. Unlike in the past, when this would usually involve a risky gamble on the local single-issue/fringe party candidate, now it’s a way to a) register an anti-politician vote and b) swing in behind a vote the only new movement that seems to have developed out of the financial crisis.
The irony, of course, is that isn’t a movement. The term covers everything from broad political groupings – the United Left Alliance, Workers’ Party, Christian Solidarity Party – to single-issue candidates, from celebrity economists to newly-politicised hopefuls, not forgetting the freshly-formed and slightly meta grouping of independents with a platform so broad as to be essentially meaningless. So it’ll be interesting to see whether they’re able to band together, even briefly, in the run-up to the election to persuade the electorate that they offer a cohesive choice to the political parties. And even more interesting to see if the public buys what they’re selling.