Judge orders Irish government to stage by-election

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010.

DUBLIN—A High Court judge has ordered Ireland’s government to stage a by-election for a parliamentary seat left empty for 17 months, a judgment that further weakens the ability of Prime Minister Brian Cowen to stay in power.

Cowen’s unpopular government has refused to hold by-elections in three Irish constituencies because it expects to lose all three—and, as a result, lose its majority needed to pass emergency deficit-slashing measures in December.

Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled Wednesday that the government is violating the constitutional rights of voters and politicians by trying to delay the by-election in Donegal, northwest Ireland, until next year.

The winning litigant, Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty, said Cowen had conspired “to suspend democracy.”

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