Voters in the Republic of Ireland have resoundingly approved adoption of the European fiscal treaty in a referendum held a day earlier, according to the final results announced Friday.
The official results indicate that about 60.3 percent of Irish voters who took part in Thursday's referendum voted in favor of the measure. Returning officer Riona Ni Flanghaile said the treaty was passed with an overwhelming majority of 955,091 votes to 629,088.
Although 3.1 million Irish voters were qualified to take part in the referendum, the turnout in Thursday's polls were less than 50%. The treaty was rejected by voters in 5 of Ireland's 43 constituencies, including both electoral regions in Donegal and three others in Dublin.
All the three dominant parties in the Irish Parliament, namely Fine Gael, Labor and Fianna Fail, had campaigned for a 'yes' vote in the referendum, while the anti-treaty camp was led by Sinn Fein and the Socialists.
"The Irish people have sent a powerful signal around the world that this is a country serious about overcoming our economic challenges. The treaty will not solve all economic problems but it is a foundation stone to make sure the economy stands on firm ground," Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny said after the official results were announced.
Rejection of the treaty in the referendum would have prevented Ireland from getting further emergency funding from the EU when its bailout package expires in 2013. The treaty sets strict new budget rules for Eurozone nation rules.
Ireland was forced to avail a EUR 67.5 billion joint EU-IMF financial bailout package in late 2010 after failing to control ballooning deficits and bank-bailout costs. In exchange for the bailout package, Ireland was asked by its lenders to overhaul the banking sector and reduce budget deficit to below three percent by 2015.
Ireland was the only nation to hold a referendum on the fiscal treaty, which imposes strict economic discipline on Eurozone states. A rejection of the treaty in the referendum would not have blocked the measure, as only 12 of the 17 eurozone member-states are required to ratify it.
With the Irish voters approving the treaty, the Republic of Ireland will now become the fourth EU nation to ratify the measure. Incidentally, the fiscal treaty sets strict new rules for reigning in budget spending and sets the guidelines for future bailout mechanisms in the eurozone.
The accord allows members of the European Union to co-ordinate their budget policies and impose penalties on those who break the set rules on budget spending. All EU members states except Britain and the Czech Republic have already signed the treaty.
Unlike previous EU treaties, the fiscal treaty is not required to be signed by all nations in the 27-member bloc. Although the pact has been termed as a treaty, it is only a inter-government agreement which is legally binding only on those nations that ratify it.
Under the fiscal compact, national budgets of ratifying nations are required to be in balance or in surplus, a criterion that would be met if the annual structural government deficit does not exceed 0.5 percent of nominal GDP.
by RTT Staff Writer
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