“Yes” side claims lead in Irish referendum on Lisbon Treaty

October 3rd, 2009 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Dublin, Oct 3 (DPA) The “Yes” side was claiming that an exit poll showed strong support for the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty as vote-counting in Ireland’s second Lisbon Referendum got under way Saturday.
Opposition Fine Gael, who campaigned for a “Yes” vote, has claimed that an exit poll shows there has been strong support for the treaty, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE reported.

The party carried out an exit poll using a representative sample of 1,000 voters in 33 locations around the country.

The party’s director of elections, Billy Timmons, told RTE that the indications were good for the “Yes” side - with most of the results processed, the Fine Gael poll shows the Yes side ahead by 60 percent to 40 percent.

The first Irish referendum on the treaty was defeated in June 2008, with the “No” side winning 53.4 percent of the vote.

Voters went to the polls Friday for a second time. Official results are expected to be announced by late afternoon.

Unofficial estimates placed turnout in the 50-55 percent range. Turnout was 53 percent in last year’s referendum.

The votes are to be counted individually in each of the 43 constituencies before the results are forwarded to the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle.

Ireland is the only EU member to have a popular vote on the treaty.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote showed the “Yes” camp surging ahead to 55 percent, while those backing “No” were down to 27 percent, leaving around 18 percent of the electorate undecided.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen, whose unpopularity was expected to cause some voters to vote “No” in protest, expressed a degree of optimism Friday about the referendum result.

“The people’s decision is sovereign and of course that will be the case but I’m hopeful that in the context of today … we’ll have a good outcome.”

All the major Irish political parties have been campaigning for a “Yes” vote, with nationalist Sinn Fein the only parliamentary party to oppose the treaty.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the momentum was with the pro-treaty side this time.

The Czech Republic and Poland are the other two countries that have not yet ratified the pact - which under EU rules must be unanimously approved by all members for it to come into force.

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