Polls see reelection of pro-Canada party in Quebec

Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:33am EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec Premier Jean Charest, a leading opponent of separation from Canada, would win reelection in the French-speaking province if he triggers an election next week as widely expected, two polls suggested on Tuesday.

Reelection would push further into the future any possibility of Quebec separatists forcing a third referendum on independence from Canada. Their first two attempts to break up Canada, in 1980 and 1995, failed. Separatists must be in power to be able to launch a referendum.

A cautionary note for Charest is that he will have to overcome the opposition of 70 to 75 percent of the population to his calling an election just 19 months after the last one.

"Mr. Charest will have to show that he is launching the campaign for reasons that are not partisan," La Presse newspaper quoted its CROP pollster Claude Gauthier as saying.

In March 2007 he won a minority of seats in the Quebec National Assembly, garnering just a few percentage points more in the popular vote than the other two parties.

Now his Quebec Liberal Party is six to eight points ahead of the separatist Parti Quebecois and 18 to 21 points ahead of the Action democratique du Quebec (ADQ), possibly even enough to get a majority government.

The provincial Liberal Party is distinct from the federal Liberal Party, which was thumped in Canada's national election on October 14. The Quebec party is not so much "liberal" as a catch-all for federalists who want to keep Canada united.

Charest said on Monday he had not decided to call an election but implied this would be needed, saying the three parties all had their hands on the steering wheel at this time of economic crisis and wanted to go in different directions.   Continued...

<p>Quebec's Premier Jean Charest speaks at the National Assembly in Quebec City October 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jacques Boissinot/Pool</p>