UPDATE: Libertas Trailing In Ireland's European Elections

UPDATE: Libertas Trailing In Ireland's European Elections

(Updates with detail.)

DUBLIN (Dow Jones)--The three candidates from Libertas, the anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigning group turned Europe-wide political party, are trailing in Ireland's European elections, according to exit polls of first preference votes published Sunday.

Of the three Libertas candidates here - Caroline Simons in Dublin, Raymond O'Malley in the East and Libertas leader Declan Ganley in the North-West - only Ganley is still regarded as in the running for a seat, the third and last one in that constituency.

In the North-West constituency, the exit poll shows Fianna Fail's Pat Gallagher with 21%, Jim Higgins of the opposition party Fine Gael with 19%, Independent Marian Harkin with 13%, and Ganley and Joe O'Reilly of Fine Gael both with 10% each.

Simons and O'Malley only gained 3% of the first preference vote in their respective constituencies, which underpins hopes by the government that the tide of public opinion is turning away from Libertas' anti-Lisbon Treaty message and toward Brussels as Ireland's recession deepens.

The exit polls were carried out by Lansdowne Market Research for state broadcaster RTE and the Sunday Independent newspaper. They were taken outside polling booths last Friday from 3,342 voters and have a 3.5% margin of error.

Libertas entered three candidates in the four European constituencies in Ireland. Results of the first count are due 2000 GMT Sunday when all polls are closed across the 27-nation European Union.

Ireland was the only member of the E.U. to put the Lisbon Treaty before voters. The treaty was rejected last year by 53.4% to 46.6%, which threw the future of the European project into crisis, but a second vote is expected in October with certain amendments.

They include allowing Ireland to retain an EU commissioner and preserving Irish neutrality and independence on corporate taxation. But more Irish voters, fearful of being isolated from Brussels during the worst economic crisis in a generation, are showing support for the treaty.

According to another Lansdowne Market Research exit poll carried out last Friday, there was good news for Ireland's embattled government: 58% of voters said they would vote "yes" in a second Lisbon Treaty referendum due to be held in October, 28% would vote "no," while 18% remain undecided.

Meanwhile, the government took a battering in local elections and didn't win a seat in two by-elections. Prime Minister Brian Cowen called the results "disappointing," while Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he'll table a vote of "no confidence" in the government on Tuesday.

The right-of-center Fianna Fail party lost a parliamentary vote in Dublin South as former economic correspondent with state broadcaster RTE George Lee won a landslide victory; the seat became open after the death of Fianna Fail TD Seamus Brennan.

The other by-election seat in Dublin Central was taken late Saturday by Independent candidate Maureen O'Sullivan; that seat became available after the death of Independent TD Tony Gregory; analysts hadn't expected Fianna Fail to be a contender for that seat.

In the counting to elect 1,627 local councilors, Fine Gael gained 31% of first preference votes, becoming the largest government party at a local level; Fianna Fail has 23%, Labour has 17%, Sinn Fein has 7%, while Fianna Fail's coalition partner, the Green Party, has 2%. Others have 17%.

-By Quentin Fottrell, Dow Jones Newswires; +353-1-676-2189; quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 07, 2009 12:55 ET (16:55 GMT)

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