Quebec separatist party hit by sudden mutiny

Tue Jun 7, 2011 12:05pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A sudden mutiny is threatening to tear apart the separatist Parti Quebecois, which had been widely expected to win the next election in the Canadian province of Quebec and then press for independence.

A fourth legislator quit the party's parliamentary caucus on Tuesday, a day after three heavyweights said they were resigning in protest over the leadership of Pauline Marois.

Jean-Martin Aussant said Marois -- who has been in the job since June 2007 -- should quit.

"I do not think Mrs Marois is the woman people want to follow when it comes to creating a country," he told a news conference as party members held a special caucus meeting.

Although Marois received a 93 percent vote of confidence at a party congress in April, there have long been internal gripes about her performance.

The Parti Quebecois is committed to achieving independence for Quebec but to do so it would first have to regain power and hold a referendum on splitting away from Canada. Its two previous referendums failed, in 1980 and 1995.

Although the PQ comfortably leads the governing Liberals in the polls, influential hard-liners complain about what they see as the leader's heavy-handedness and her lack of drive to gain Quebec's independence.

The party has long been split between those who want independence as soon as possible and a more moderate wing which is prepared to wait. The divisions make the PQ hard to run and Marois -- who declines to say when she would hold a referendum -- is just the latest leader to get into trouble.   Continued...