Counting gets under way in Dublin, Ireland, Feb. 27, 2016.
Counting gets under way in Dublin, Ireland, Feb. 27, 2016.

Exit polls in Ireland's parliamentary election indicate the country's ruling coalition may fall apart due to loss of legislative seats in Friday's vote.

Just hours before the ballot count was due to start Saturday, public broadcaster RTE reported that Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael  party got far fewer votes than expected, at 23.8 percent. Fine Gael's junior partner, the Labour party, is expected to get about seven percent of the vote, leaving the coalition short of a workable majority in parliament.

Rival party Fianna Fail is expected to garner about 21.1 percent of the vote.

The two major parties — which evolved from the two opposing sides in Ireland's civil war nearly a century ago — have never worked together in parliament, leaving the next step for Irish lawmakers unclear. A new election could be held, or they could choose to form a coalition for the first time in the history of Irish democracy.

Results are based on a survey of 4,283 Irish voters exiting polling stations Friday in 225 polling stations. The poll involved respondents from all 40 of Ireland's constituencies and had a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points.