(Dublin) Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris found himself under pressure on Monday to call early general elections in order to capitalise on the centrist coalition’s good performance in European and local elections, dominated by migration issues.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the country’s two main parties participating in the centre-right government, both received more than 20% of the vote in local elections held last Friday.

Conversely, the left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein party, which favors reunification with Northern Ireland, fell below 12%, 20 points below its polling levels last year.

For the European elections, results are expected within the week, but early tallies suggest a similar trend.

The next legislative elections are supposed to be held by next March and Simon Harris, head of government since last April, has for the moment assured that he wants to finish the legislature.

But figures in his party, Fine Gael, have called on him to call voters earlier to take advantage of the success of the last polls.

The daily Irish Times has now deemed it “more likely” that early legislative elections will be held: “Despite their protests, it would be astonishing if the governing parties did not seriously consider it.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald apologised on Sunday for her party’s disappointing results but refused to resign.

Analysts have blamed the party’s decline on its pro-immigration positioning, which penalized it among the popular electorate.

Immigration has indeed emerged for the first time as a major campaign theme in Ireland. Accommodation of migrants has become a particularly sensitive subject there in recent months, with the lack of affordable housing and the purchasing power crisis having fueled strong resentment against new arrivals.  

At the end of November, the city of Dublin was shaken by unprecedented riots, which the authorities blamed on far-right groups, after a knife attack which left four people injured, including three children.

Since taking over as head of government from Leo Varadkar, who resigned, Simon Harris has tightened the conditions for the right to asylum and reduced financial aid for refugees.