May 17 (UPI) — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will step down at midnight Wednesday amid a police corruption scandal, a decision that could trigger parliamentary elections.
Kenny, who’s served as prime minister for six years, hinted in March he would step down soon — first as leader of the Fine Gael party and then as prime minister, once his replacement is selected.
The prime minister leads a minority government under a deal with the opposition Fianna Fail party, which has veto power over Fine Gael’s decision over who to nominate as Kenny’s successor. If the two parties cannot agree, it would trigger national elections and Kenny would stay in office as head of a caretaker government.
Kenny steps down amid questions about his role in a scandal involving the nation’s police and efforts to publicly smear a whistle-blower who made allegations of official corruption.
As prime minister, Kenny was widely praised in the European Union for guiding the Irish economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which hit Ireland’s economy hard. He engineered a $45 billion bailout of the nation’s banking system after lines of credit froze up, preventing what could have been a full-scale collapse.
Kenny said Fine Gael would name his successor no later than June 2. Opinion polls have shown public support at nearly identical levels for the two parties, making it likely either would have to rely on a coalition of minor parties and independent lawmakers to create a governing majority if new elections are required.