DUBLIN (Reuters) – An Irish national election exit poll on Saturday showed the three main parties on an almost identical share of the vote.
The Ipsos MRBI exit poll showed the center-right Fine Gael of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on 22.4%, left wing nationalists Sinn Fein on 22.3% and center-right pre-election favorites Fianna Fail on 22.2%.
Statistically the result is a dead heat, national broadcaster RTE, which commissioned the poll, said.
Counting begins at 0900 GMT on Sunday with some results expected from the early afternoon.
Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), had put forward too few candidates to capitalize on a surge of support attracted during the campaign.
Analysts said ahead of the vote that would mean either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, which each ran twice as many candidates, would likely win the most seats.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have continuously ruled out governing with Sinn Fein and have said they will look to smaller parties to form a coalition or minority government.
Both would fall well short of a majority of seats on such a share of the vote.
Addintional reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Frances Kerry, Alexander Smith and Daniel Wallis