As key allies leave, next election may be Canada PM's last

Wed Jun 3, 2015 1:07am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The shock departure of a Canadian cabinet heavyweight has fueled talk about how long Prime Minister Stephen Harper will stay in power, with some in his party predicting he is unlikely to serve a full term if he wins re-election this October.

Harper, 56, who led his right-of-center Conservative Party to victory in early 2006, is seeking to pull off a rare fourth consecutive victory against a stiff opposition challenge.

Numerous party sources say if the Conservatives come first, but fail to secure a majority of seats in the House of Commons elected chamber, Harper's days are numbered. Even if he wins a majority, which polls suggest is out of reach, some top party members expect he will be gone within two years.

"This is going to be his last election," said one well-placed insider, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity.

These sources stressed no one was immediately seeking to depose Harper, who is respected inside the party for reuniting a fractured political right and returning it to office.

But two factors are at play.

One is that Canadian prime ministers rarely stay in power for more than a decade. By mid-2017 Harper would have been prime minister for 11-1/2 years, a point where voters may well want someone else to run what is one of the world's major energy-exporting nations.

And privately, some Conservatives feel uneasy about the party's polarizing style and say they are growing weary of Harper's rigid control.   Continued...

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 25, 2014.                       REUTERS/Lucas Jackson