D-day for election hopefuls

Boxes will open at 9am today to count the votes cast in Election 2016.

A total of 552 candidates were running for office - this weekend will show how successful or otherwise their campaigns have been.

At just three weeks, it was the shortest General Election campaign in Irish history.

Almost 3.3 million people were eligible to vote and 157 seats are up for grabs across 40 constituencies. The 158th seat is already reserved for Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, who is automatically returned to office.

The new Dáil - our 32nd -will meet on March 10. It is eight seats smaller than the 2011 Dáil.

The RTE exit poll, which is due to be released in the next few minutes, will be the first indication of how the country voted.

Opinion polls in recent weeks suggested a hung Dáil as a strong possibility, with no single party securing enough votes for an overall majority. That means a coalition of parties will be required to form a government, possibly bolstered by a number of independents. The shape of that coalition has fixated commentary in recent weeks, with two most-likely options emerging - a Fianna Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition, or a ‘rainbow coalition’ between Fine Gael, Labour and Independents.

Who will form the government is a question for next week - this weekend it’s all about the candidates and percentages each party wins.

We expect the first results by late afternoon today, and they’ll be arriving thick and fast from then on. We expect roughly half the constituencies to have declared by the end of today, with some who are close to declarations continuing to count through the night. The remaining constituencies will resume their counts tomorrow morning at 9am.

Recounts may extend the results beyond Sunday - we’ll all have a better impression of that by lunchtime tomorrow.

It all starts at 9am!

Check out: GE16 live blog: The count


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