The general election in the Republic of Ireland is set to produce a hung parliament after the poor performance in the poll of the existing coalition.
Enda Kenny, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) and leader of the largest coalition party, Fine Gael, said it was a disappointing election for his party.
It is likely Fine Gael will remain the largest party, but with a narrow lead over the main opposition, Fianna Fáil.
There is growing pressure on the two parties to provide a government.
Before the election, both of them indicated that they would not go into coalition with each other.
Counting of ballots will continue on Sunday, with the possibility that some seats may not be declared until Monday.
While existing coalition partners Fine Gael and Labour have suffered heavy losses, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, smaller parties and Independents are doing well.
On Saturday, Mr Kenny – who has been re-elected in Mayo – said it was clear the existing government would not regain power.
“This is a disappointment for the Fine Gael party,” he said.
He said you can “argue about” the people’s decision, but “you cannot argue with it”.
“So clearly, the government of Fine Gael and Labour are not going to be returned to office.”
He added that the “majority government option is gone” but he would wait for the full results and consider options on how to form a government “very carefully”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the election as an “extraordinary vote” and said he was “very pleased”.
He said it would take time before it was clear what shape a new government would take.
“A lot will depend on the destination of the last seats in many constituencies. It’s a bit too early to be definitive, but it’s clear we’re going to have a good day,” he said.
Joan Burton said she was “very, very disappointed” that many Labour Party candidates would not be elected to parliament.
“All I can say is that the Labour Party is at the fight for justice and social justice in Ireland and we will continue that fight in the next Dáil, even if our numbers are diminished.”
Among the other notable candidates elected so far are Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald and Fine Gael ministers Frances Fitzgerald, Charlie Flanagan and Leo Varadkar.
However, Fine Gael’s former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and his party colleague and Children’s Minister James Reilly have lost their seats, as has Alex White, the Labour Party’s communications minister.
Sinn Féin, another big winner, indicated it would not go into government.
The party’s Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, said it had been a hugely successful election for Sinn Féin.
“My sense is that a government will be formed, I don’t think there will be a second election within weeks. How stable a government, that remains to be seen,” he said.
Over three million people were entitled to vote in Friday’s poll, which will return 157 members of parliament, known as TDs. The ceann comhairle (speaker) is automatically returned.
The campaign was fought mainly over economic issues, with the government parties asking voters for their support to keep the recovery going at a time when international storm clouds were gathering.
But the opposition parties countered that not everyone, especially outside middle-class Dublin, had been benefiting from the up-turn.
The Republic of Ireland has had the fastest growing economy in the eurozone for the last two years.
TDs are being elected according to the single transferable vote (STV) system, in which candidates have to reach a quota, before their surplus votes are distributed to others.