Sep 4, 2012 / 8:16 pm
The Parti Quebecois celebrated a return to power after nine years in opposition but its parade was dampened Tuesday by a weaker-than-desired result that could severely limit its ability to pursue its independence agenda.
The party has never governed with a minority in its history and, therefore, has never faced the need to table a referendum question, an inaugural speech, or any other confidence measure with the support of parties that oppose its core values.
Its score in the popular vote was also mediocre. The PQ took about 32 per cent of votes.
That was just one percentage point more than the governing Liberals, who staved off the electoral annihilation many had predicted. The new Coalition party had 27 per cent.
The result was greeted with perhaps the greatest sigh of relief, ever, to follow any of the five elections the PQ has now won in its history. In an early reaction from federal politicians, Liberal Leader Bob Rae bluntly described the result on Twitter as: "Quebec voters reject separatist project."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was more conciliatory but the message was similar. In a statement he congratulated the PQ's Pauline Marois on her election win, then delivered a pointed barb aimed at the independence project.
"We don't believe Quebecers want to reopen the old constitutional quarrels of the past," Harper said in his first public comments after five weeks of silence on the Quebec election.
"Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and good economic management. We believe economic issues and jobs are also the priority of Quebecers. In that sense, we will continue working with the Government of Quebec on those common objectives."
Harper also thanked outgoing premier Jean Charest for his "leadership and devotion to Quebecers."
Charest's status was a major wildcard late Tuesday. Charest lost his riding of Sherbrooke, for the first time in nine federal and provincial elections, and it's unknown whether he will stay on to lead his party, or how his party would vote in the legislature without a leader there.
The PQ won or was leading in about 56 ridings in Tuesday's election, shy of the 63 needed for a majority in the 125-seat legislature. Quebec solidaire won two seats.
Charest's Liberals had a far better-than-expected result and were leading or elected in about 48 ridings, holding onto official Opposition status. The newly formed Coalition party had a disappointing night, winning or leading in about 19 ridings.
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