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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec's separatists have strengthened their standing to the point where they would win provincial elections if a vote were held today, a new poll showed on Monday.
The Leger poll has the separatist Parti Quebecois tied with the Liberal Party, which wants to keep the province in Canada, at 40 percent apiece. But because of the way the Liberal votes are concentrated in fewer districts, the Parti Quebecois would win an election.
For now, the provincial Liberals are safe, since Premier Jean Charest led them to a majority victory in December -- meaning the opposition cannot topple him and he does not have to call an election before late 2013.
His party won with 42 percent of the vote and the separatists took 35 percent in the December election.
On the federal level, the Conservative Party's prospects are bleak in the province, standing in fourth place with the support of only 13 percent of Quebeckers.
The Leger poll put the federal Liberals -- unconnected with the provincial Liberals -- ahead at 37 percent, the Bloc Quebecois at 33 percent and the New Democrats, who currently have only one seat in Quebec, at 14 percent.
Other polls have shown the federal Liberals ahead of the Conservatives nationwide, but with such a slight lead that most analysts do not think they would risk trying to bring the government down in the next few months.
The poll, taken for Le Devoir and Montreal Gazette newspapers, surveyed 1,053 Quebeckers from May 13-17 and carries a margin of error of 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson