Higgins wins Irish presidency with 56.8 pct votes

October 29, 2011 - 11:30 AM
APTOPIX Ireland Presidential Election

Michael D Higgins, right, and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness wait for the first count in the election to be next President of Ireland at Dublin Castle, Ireland, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

DUBLIN (AP) — Irish electoral officials say veteran left-wing politician Michael D. Higgins has won the presidential election with a total 56.8 percent share of votes.

Saturday's result capped a two-day count of ballots to determine who would succeed Mary McAleese as Ireland's ceremonial head of state.

Higgins' victory was assured after partial results Friday gave him an unassailable lead versus six other candidates, who conceded defeat.

The 70-year-old Higgins has dedicated his political career to championing Irish culture and left-wing human rights causes worldwide. He is a senior figure of Labour, the junior party in Ireland's coalition government. He also is a published poet.

Entrepreneur and reality TV judge Sean Gallagher came second, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness third.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

DUBLIN (AP) — Ballot counting in Ireland's presidential election has resumed with poet and human rights activist Michael D. Higgins already assured of victory.

Higgins received nearly 40 percent of votes in the first round of counting Friday. That gave him a commanding lead versus six rivals, all of whom conceded defeat.

But Ireland's electoral system allows voters to rate candidates in order of preference. This means ballots must be recounted several times to transfer votes from the lowest-ranking candidates to those still in contention.

Higgins will be declared the winner Saturday afternoon after votes of the fourth-place candidate, Gay Mitchell, are redistributed. Enough Mitchell votes should transfer to Higgins to put him over the 50 percent support needed for victory.