DUBLIN, Ireland -- Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will remain in office atop a stronger Fianna Fail-led government, analysts and opposition leaders agreed Saturday as results flowed in from a parliamentary election dominated by Ireland's thriving economy.
Michael Noonan, leader of the main opposition Fine Gael party, resigned after his party suffered its most grievous defeat in its 70-year history. He conceded that most voters wanted to keep an Ahern government that presided over Ireland's last five years of economic expansion.
"It's a very, very bad day for Fine Gael. It was beyond our worst expectations and beyond our worst fears," said Noonan, 59, who took charge of Ireland's No. 2 party just 15 months ago in hopes of mounting a serious challenge to Ahern.
The count of Friday's ballots was expected to take all Saturday and, in some closely fought districts, could run into Sunday.