Quebec separatists set to take power, tackle Ottawa

Tue Sep 4, 2012 5:24pm EDT
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By Leila Lemghalef

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec (Reuters) - Quebecers were voting on Tuesday in an election that looked set to hand victory to the separatist Parti Quebecois, which wants the resource-rich French-speaking province to break away from Canada.

Polls show that the left-leaning Parti Quebecois, which has twice held unsuccessful referendums on independence, will end nine years of rule by the federalist Liberals of Premier Jean Charest.

Although PQ leader Pauline Marois is promising another independence referendum when the time is right, that could be years away. A CROP poll last week showed only 28 percent of Quebecers back the idea of breaking away from Canada.

Marois says she would concentrate instead on the economy, in particular tackling the province's large debt, imposing higher tax and royalty rates on mining firms and making foreign takeovers of Quebec companies more difficult.

"Charest was in power for nine years, he had his chance. It's time for a change," said 60-year-old voter Andre Tetreault after casting his ballot for the PQ in Quebec City.

The election pits the PQ against the Liberals and the newly created right-of-center Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ) Two other smaller separatist parties are also on the ballot, and vote splitting means the final result is hard to call.

The PQ could well end up with a minority of seats in the provincial legislature, meaning it would have to rely on other parties to govern.

Polls close at 8 p.m. eastern (0000 GMT Wednesday) and first results could be known within two hours. Quebec has a population of 7.8 million, compared with 34.5 million for all of Canada.   Continued...

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois walks out of the polling station with her husband Claude Blanchet following her vote in her home riding in Beaupre, Quebec, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi