The province of Quebec is gearing up for a key election next weekend. The current Premier, Pauline Marois, rose to power following the massive student and popular protests during the spring of 2012. Her party, the Parti Quebecois, has been in a minority government situation – Marois’ inability to pass her legislative agenda led her to decide to dissolve the National Assembly and trigger an election last month. Over the course of 33 days, candidates from rivaling political factions in Quebec are jostling for votes, leading up to the April 7 general election. Marois, who called for the election believing she would clinch the majority government that would allow her to realize her party’s ambitions, is now seeing her position diminished, due to a miscalculation of Quebeckers’ position on key electoral questions.
Her political agenda, which includes support for Quebec sovereignty and a Charter of Values which would ban public sector workers from wearing overtly religious symbols, were thought to be wedge issues that would allow Marois to give her party a stronger position. But, as it turns out, Quebec voters are not so clearly in favor of these policies. Marois initially launched her campaign by focusing on Quebec sovereignty, and promising to call for another referendum on independence from Canada (the last one, in 1995, saw the “No” win with barely a one percent margin). But lack of clarity around what she believes the contours of sovereignty would look like, and the recruiting of Pierre Karl Peladeau, a staunchly sovereigntist media and business magnate, is clashing with Quebeckers’ political beliefs and hopes for their province. A March 9 poll shows that 60% of Quebec voters would not support Quebec becoming a sovereign country. Marois and the Parti Quebecois are in a difficult position, both trying to reassure the die-hard sovereigntists that an independence vote is not off the table, all the while trying to appeal to a majority that doesn’t want this question revisited.
On the eve of the election, Marois’ Parti Quebecois has taken a tumble in the polls. The Liberal Party of Quebec is now poised to win the vote on April 7 – possibly with enough margin to form their own majority government. This would deal a serious blow to the Parti Quebecois and to the ideas and political beliefs they represent.