Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar resigned on Thursday but stayed on as interim leader while the country’s three main parties battle out coalition talks after an inconclusive election.
Varadkar tendered his resignation as taoiseach, or premier, to President Michael Higgins after the first sitting of Ireland’s lower house of parliament since an 8 February election which radically recast the political landscape.
“In accordance with the constitution, the taoiseach and the government will continue to carry on their duties until successors have been appointed,” according to the government statement.
Parties in the 160 seat chamber — the Dail — convened and nominated candidates to lead a new government as taoiseach but with none commanding a majority, it was adjourned until 5 March.
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald secured the most support beyond her own lawmakers in the first ballot for prime minister, adding eight left-wing votes to her 37 Sinn Fein deputies, which left her far short of the 80 required to form a government.
The other two main parties’ refusal to govern with Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, puts Fianna Fail in pole position, even after leader Micheal Martin secured the support of just four independent lawmakers in addition to his own 37 deputies.
Fianna Fail is the largest party in parliament with 38 elected deputies, but one was re-elected as speaker earlier in Thursday’s session and does not vote.
Varadkar was obliged to put his name forward for re-election as prime minister and will assume the role on a caretaker basis until a new government is formed.
The Greens will also meet Sinn Fein next week and has not stated a preference for the coalition.
In 2017, PM Varadkar had said that he did not want to see an economic border between his country and any part of a post-Brexit Britain.
Varadkar had also promised that the Irish government would do all it could in Brexit negotiations to achieve the best outcome for peace, freedom, rights and prosperity in Ireland.
(With inputs from agency)