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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The badly battered Liberal Party decided on Tuesday to steer clear of any talk of merging with the New Democrats, at least for now, as a way to unite the left and better challenge the governing Conservatives in the next election.
The argument is that the combined NDP-Liberal vote in the May 2 election exceeded the Conservative vote and a merged Liberal-NDP party could have won a majority government, assuming a united party would have picked up most or all of that support.
Talk of a merger quickly followed the election, when the Liberals, who had grown accustomed to being Canada's dominant political party over the last century, had their worst-ever showing, winning just 34 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons and falling to third place.
With the New Democratic Party winning 102 seats and forming the official opposition, many politicians and analysts alike quickly began to speculate that a Liberal-NDP merger was the way forward for both parties
However, the Liberal Party's national board is recommending that whoever becomes interim leader should pledge not to pursue any merger discussions without a mandate from a party convention, said a Liberal source who has seen the decision. The source asked not to be identified.
The board will present its guidelines on Wednesday afternoon to the parliamentary caucus for a joint decision.
Many Liberals have indicated the NDP is too far left for their taste, while New Democrats have shown little interest in a merger to date.
The Liberal Party plans to find a temporary leader to replace Michael Ignatieff, who stepped down after the Liberals' May 2 defeat -- losing his own seat in the process.
The interim leader will act as a caretaker until a convention chooses a permanent replacement for Ignatieff.
The party will have some time. The next election is scheduled for October 2015.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson