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Ireland could be on course for a historic alliance between age-old foes - the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail parties - as partial election results on Saturday revealed strong voter rejection

of the existing coalition government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Kenny said he was surprised by the unexpectedly strong losses for his centrist Fine Gael and even heavier blows for his left-wing partner, Labour. "Democracy can be very exciting but it's merciless," he said.

Yet Ireland's soft-spoken leader vowed to remain in office atop a new coalition and would seek new allies with the sole aim of creating "as stable a government as can be created." He declined to rule out a historic partnership with Fianna Fail, which has never shared power with Fine Gael since their founders took opposite sides in Ireland's civil war 94 years ago.