Enda Kenny
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny is favoured to return to power when the country goes to the polls on 26 FebruaryReuters

Ireland will have one of the shortest election battles in its political history after its dail was dissolved and a date for people to go to the polls set at 26 February.

On Wednesday (3 February) Prime Minister Enda Kenny travelled to the official residence of the president, Michael D Higgins, to request the dissolution of parliament.

Kenny is the favourite among bookmakers to be the first ever Fine Gael prime minister to win a second successive term since the Republic became independent from the UK in 1922.

But polls suggest that his party will not get a majority, with a Fine Gael-Labour coalition propped up with the support of independent MPs being the most likely outcome. This would be the country's 14th coalition government since Dail Eireann (Ireland's Parliament) was established.

The latest polls put Fine Gael at 30% of votes, with leftist challenger Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail battling it out for second place on or just below 20% and Labour stuck at or below 10%, Reuters reported.

The key issue is expected to be how well the Irish economy has been managed after it was hit by the 2008 financial crash and subsequent bailout by the IMF and the EU.

Voters will go to the polls just weeks before Ireland marks the centenary of the 1916 "Easter Rising" against British rule.

With Britain renegotiating the terms of its EU membership, Ireland will be keen to form a government as quickly as possible and Kenny has said that Ireland has more to lose than most if its closest neighbour votes to leave the EU in a referendum.

Irish political scientist Michael Gallagher told The Guardian that the likelihood is that the next government will not have to make the unpopular tax-raising and expenditure-cutting decisions that the last one did.

Meanwhile, political scientist Mike Marsh told the newspaper: "I do think people acknowledge that some austerity was necessary, but was it fair austerity? One narrative is that the recovery is for Dublin and for the middle classes, and that is certainly the group behind Fine Gael's recovery."

Enda Kenny announced the dissolving of the Irish parliament on twitterTwitter