Conservatives open lead over rivals

Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:57pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have opened up a narrow lead over their main rivals, but would most likely see their grip on power weakened if an election were held now, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The Nanos Research survey put the Conservatives at 36.6 percent support, up from 33.3 percent a month ago. The Liberals dipped to 32.4 percent from 32.8 percent.

The figures suggest the Conservatives -- who have only a minority of seats in the House of Commons -- are surviving pressure over recent policy stumbles. Recent polls by other firms show a narrower gap between the two main parties.

Many political observers, as well as some officials close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, expect the minority government to be brought down over its budget in early 2011.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs to win around 36 percent of the vote to gain a workable minority, while staying at least five or six percentage points ahead.

The closeness of the Nanos poll suggests the Conservatives, who came to power in early 2006 and then won a strengthened minority in October 2008, would win fewer seats this time.

The survey of 1,002 adults was conducted between October 1 and October 6 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves as he arrives at a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of relations between China and Canada, in Ottawa October 13, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>