Quebec separatists set for election win in Canada
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Voters in Canada’s Francophone province are casting their votes today as pre-election polls suggest a victory for the Parti Québécois, a party that has campaigned for Québec’s succession from Canada.
Almost six million electors will head to nearly 20,000 polling stations across the province to choose 125 lawmakers to represent them.
An opinion poll published on Sunday showed a third of voters intended to vote for the Parti Québécois, while 28 percent are leaning towards the Coalition Avenir Québec, a party that was only formed in November 2011.
After nine years in power, the incumbent Liberal Party, headed by Premier Jean Charest, was predicted to only take around 27 percent of the vote.
The election could see the Parti Québécois leader, Pauline Marois, become the province’s first female leader, but political observers say the final results are likely to be close.
The election comes on the heels of months of large and sometimes violent protests by university students against tuition fee increases announced by the Charest government.
The Parti Québécois had promised to freeze any fee increases if elected, bringing it support from younger voters.
Martine Desjardins from the Federation of Québécois University Students says students would like the party to keep their promise.
“We’re going to make sure that the Parti Québécois, if they are elected, will declare the tuition fee freeze that we’ve been asking for two years now,” she told RFI.
“But we [also] know very well that, once in power, political parties change their position, so we don’t want to take anything for granted, either.”
During the campaign, Jean Charest has tried to keep the focus on the economy and highlight major energy and resource projects in the province.
However, the party has been accused of corruption and criticised for its poor handling of the student protests.
For its part, the Coalition Avenir Québec also campaigned against corruption while planning to slash thousands of public sector jobs and promising to find every Quebecer a family doctor within a year.
The Parti Québécois has also brought back the long-simmering issue of Québec sovereignty, with suggestions the party may push for a fresh referendum on Québec’s independence from Canada.
Two previous referendums – in 1980 and 1995 – were defeated by narrow margins, and recent polls suggest barely a third of Quebecers currently support succession.