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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian poll released on Monday predicted for the first time that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be able to transform his minority government into a strong majority in the October 14 election.
The Segma poll, taken for La Presse newspaper, put support for the Conservatives at 43 percent, which the pollsters said would translate into 183 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
It predicted the main opposition Liberals would get 25 percent of the vote, translating into just 62 seats.
The Conservatives had 127 seats in the old Parliament, while the Liberals had 95.
Other big parties are the separatist Bloc Quebecois, with 48 seats and the left-wing New Democrats with 30 seats.
Canada's election campaign started on Sunday as Harper sought a new mandate after 2-1/2 years in power.
He said on Sunday that he only expected to win another minority, and his staff clearly worry that a strong showing this early in the election game will only encourage other parties to gang up on the Conservatives.
Pollsters often see 40 percent support as a threshold for getting a majority of seats, although a party can win a majority with less than 40 percent if it maintains a substantial lead over the nearest competitor.
A separate poll, conducted by Strategic Counsel for the Globe and Mail, showed a shift in support toward the Conservatives in 45 hotly contested electoral districts in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
"The bottom line is that the Conservatives are in significantly better shape in these battlegrounds in the three provinces than they were in the (January 2006) election," Peter Donolo of Strategic Counsel told the Globe.
The poll shows the Conservatives in first place in the key swing constituencies. Of the 45 districts sampled, 17 had been held by the Liberals, 16 by the Conservatives, eight by the Bloc and four by the New Democrats. It surveyed 1,380 people in the 45 districts from September 4-6.
Segma, which polled 1,288 Canadians between August 30 and September 6, said its poll showed 15 percent support for the New Democrats, 8 percent for the Bloc Quebecois and 7 percent for the Greens.
The Segma sample carries a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Janet Guttsman