Ireland's ruling Fianna Fail party suffered a crushing defeat in the general election and the opposition Fine Gael party is set to lead the next government, according to an exit poll Saturday.
Fine Gael, led by former teacher Enda Kenny, won 36.1 percent of the vote on Friday, its best result since November 1982 but not enough for a parliamentary majority, the Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the RTE broadcaster showed.
By contrast the Fianna Fail party of Prime Minister Brian Cowen, blamed for the country's economic crash and a deeply unpopular international bailout, is on course for its worst ever general election result with 15.1 percent.
The Labour party was on 20.5 percent, which would be its best ever share of the vote in a general election if confirmed by the results expected later Saturday.
Kenny, who is almost certain to become the new prime minister, has vowed to try to re-negotiate the terms of an 85-billion-euro ($115-billion) European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout.
Ireland was forced to accept the bailout in November after a debt crisis centred on the eurozone country's banks threatened to spiral out of control.