Separatist group, Parti Quebecois, has won Quebec’s regional elections and will form a new government there, once again raising the possibility of a referendum on independence being held in Canada’s French-speaking province.
Canadian Broadcasting Corp and the Canadian Press reported that Parti Quebecois (PQ) won or were leading in nearly 60 districts, just short of the 63 needed for a majority government.
The party’s leader, Pauline Marois, will replace head of the Liberal party, Jean Charest, as the province’s leader, becoming Quebec’s first female premier.
Crowds of jubilant PQ followers, cheered and waved flags as election results indicated their party was heading back to power after nine years of Liberal Party rule.
Should PQ win a majority it will make it easier for them to call a referendum on independence. Quebec has held two referendums in the past – one in 1980 and another in 1995- with the last narrowly rejecting independence from Canada.
However PQ claim their short-term priority would be picking the economy up off its knees, instead of pushing for a separation vote straight away.
“It’s very important for me to manage our finances responsibly. That is without doubt why our engagements are the least costly of all parties,” Pauline Marois earlier told Canadian media, while outlining a program that sets out new spending at $1 billion over a five year period.
At the same time she stated that she would hold an independence vote “tomorrow morning” if the conditions were right.
The long-ruling Liberal Party’s loss comes after months of student and union protests raging this spring and summer against tuition hikes in the province and the controversial new Bill 78, which restricts mass gatherings in the province.
Tens of thousands of students have made their outrage public by demonstrating and clashing with police, making headlines across the world. Protests began in February, resulting in about 2,500 arrests. Tuesday’s vote is seen by many as an echo of this public discontent.