Dublin: Ireland`s main opposition party Fine Gael is on course to lead the next government but without an overall majority, an exit poll for state broadcaster RTE showed on Saturday.
The centre-right party is expected to win 36.1 percent of first preference votes under Ireland`s system of proportional representation, its best result since 1982, but below expectations for a record victory.
The ruling Fianna Fail party is expected to win just 15.1 percent of first preference votes, its worst ever result, after voters took revenge for its mishandling of the economic crisis.
The Labour party, Fine Gael`s traditional partner in government, secured 20.5 percent of the vote, which would be its best ever electoral performance, the poll showed.
The RTE/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll traditionally provides an accurate picture of voting with its exit poll at the last election in 2007 accurate to within half a percentage point.
Manual counting does not start until 9:00 am on Saturday morning and final results will likely run until Sunday.