The Irish General Election of 2020 changed the political landscape across the country and ushered in a new era of a politics that just could not be predicted. For those who enjoy betting on possible political outcomes, this was welcome news. For others, this was frustrating and showed that polls, speculation, and even the outright result couldn’t be counted on. But the event does mean that future political betting could be more exciting – and taught a lesson to those involved in political betting never to make assumptions. But how does this unpredictable politics affect those who like to bet on it?
The power-sharing government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (and the Greens) came as a surprise to many. The coalition was ratified by members and was suggested by many to be a move to keep Mary Lou McDonald’s Sinn Fein – who achieved the largest proportion of popular votes – from power.
The coalition will work with Leo Varadkar stepping down as Taoiseach to allow Micheál Martin to do the job for the first half of the five-year plan, with the former then resuming the role. This seems like a sensible and adult response to a potentially fractured political landscape. But it certainly threw a spanner in the works for those who enjoy political betting.
The latest odds for the Irish elections saw evens for Sinn Fein, 6/4 odds for Fine Gael and 4/1 for Fianna Fáil. This means that Sinn Fein was fully expected to be victorious. Nobody banked on a coalition of rivals standing in their way. This could help inform future elections worldwide that are open to betting, especially as each outcome might seem contradictory.
— TheLiberal.ie (@TheLiberal_ie) July 1, 2020
As this dedicated political betting page goes on show, not only can you choose to bet on who the next overall leader might be, but also on which party will win the highest number of seats. For example, for the US Presidential Election in November, you could bet who the next president would be, as well as the party that will win the popular vote. Irish betting is over, but the option to choose who would have the highest number of seats could have resulted in a win, even if the result meant that party didn’t form a government.
This would help inform political betting in the future. The past few major global elections – from the surprising victory for Leave in the UK’s Brexit referendum to the shock win of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in 2016 – have shown that politics is increasingly hard to predict. For bettors, this presents an exciting opportunity and means that periods leading up to an election are tense, with minuscule things such as slip of the tongue or poorly managed press spot leading to a loss.
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) June 27, 2020
Sinn Fein did win the highest proportion of votes in the first instance, so if anyone was to have bet on Mary Lou McDonald to become the next Taoiseach, they would have been disappointed, despite the electoral gains made by her party. The experience teaches political bettors to consider each event as something independent. The outright next leader might not reflect the popular vote win, while the largest seat gains might not reflect the eventual government.
Irish politics is yet another global example of something surprising happening to the political landscape. Unlike with Brexit and Trump, which shocked many and led to further discord, the coalition could see an end to partisan politics and a forward-thinking government aiming to improve life for its citizens.