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