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Enda Kenny Elected Ireland's New PM


Ireland's Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, arrives for the EPP party heads of state meeting at the Kamp Hotel in Helsinki, March 4, 2011

Ireland's Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, arrives for the EPP party heads of state meeting at the Kamp Hotel in Helsinki, March 4, 2011

Ireland's new parliament has elected Enda Kenny as prime minister, with a mandate to renegotiate an unpopular bailout package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Wednesday's vote came just days after the country's two largest political parties agreed to form a coalition government that will have an overwhelming majority in the lower house of parliament.

The coalition must now work quickly to prepare for a meeting Friday with euro zone leaders. At the meeting, Kenny is expected to ask to renegotiate the $115-billion bailout plan, seeking to cut the 5.8 percent interest rate on the funds Ireland must pay back to the EU and the IMF.

The longtime leading party, Fianna Fail, was trounced in last week's elections by Kenny's Fine Gael party and the second-place Labor party.

Irish voters were angry that the preceding government sought a bailout from the EU and IMF after the Irish economy collapsed during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Under terms of the loan, the government must slash spending and civil service salaries.

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