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UPDATE 1-Quebec premier set to call election for Sept 4 -CBC

by on July 31, 2012 9:19 pm GMT
 

Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:19pm EDT

* Quebec elections always get into issue of separation

* Provincial election expected for Sept. 4

* Pollsters say difficult for separatists to win majority

July 31 (Reuters) – Quebec Premier Jean Charest intends to
call a provincial election on Wednesday, with voters going to
the polls on Sept. 4, the French arm of the Canadian
Broadcasting Corp, Radio Canada, said on Tuesday.

The election will pit Charest’s Liberals against the Parti
Quebecois, which is running neck-and-neck in public support and
which seeks independence for the French-speaking Canadian
province.

But poll numbers show that because of the involvement of a
new third party, it would be difficult for the Parti Quebecois
to get a majority of seats, which it would need if it wanted to
launch another referendum on separation.

The separatists lost referendums on independence in 1980 and
1995, the latter by just a whisker.

The pro-Canada Liberals have been in power since 2003, and
won a majority government in 2008. But they have lost support
over the last two years amid allegations of corruption and
kickbacks in the construction industry.

At a news conference in his hometown of Sherbrooke, Quebec,
Charest ducked questions on when he would call an election, but
he noted that his government was in the fourth year of its
mandate and it was normal to make electoral preparations.

He sought to frame an eventual campaign in terms of whether
the government should focus on the economy and jobs, or on
another referendum.

“There are two visions that will stand opposed to each
other, and Quebec citizens, when an election is called, will
ultimately have to decide in which kind of society they want to
live,” he said.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, sensitive to unease
about the sovereignty issue among certain segments of the
population, has refused to set out a timetable for moving toward
a third referendum should she take power.

Marois told reporters on Tuesday it was “not right” for
Charest to launch an election in the middle of summer and said
he was going to extremes to get Quebec voters to forget his
record.

Radio Canada said Charest had contacted Lieutenant Governor
Pierre Duchesne to be sure he would be in his office on
Wednesday to dissolve the provincial legislature and open the
election campaign.