Race for leadership of Parti Québécois begins

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Two announcements Friday heralded the start of the race to select a new leader for the Parti Québécois (PQ) in Québec, Canada. Gilles Duceppe, leader of the federal separatist political party, the Bloc Québécois (BQ), ended speculation by announcing his interest in succeeding André Boisclair as leader of the Bloc's provincial separatist counterpart, the PQ. Within minutes of Duceppe announcing his intentions, Pauline Marois, a former PQ cabinet minister, threw her hat in the ring.

Since the PQ's weak showing in the last Québec provincial election, held on March 26, 2007, there had been speculation that Boisclair would step down and that Duceppe would take a run at the PQ leadership. "I think it's time to end the suspense. I announce that I will be candidate for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois," said Duceppe in a statement.

Duceppe has been a successful leader of the BQ, garnering over 50 seats out of a possible 75 for his party in the last two federal elections. But Duceppe, 59, will not have an easy time in his bid for the PQ leadership. Although Pauline Marois has run unsuccessfully for the PQ leadership on two previous occasions, she is well respected among members of the PQ and is expected to make a close race of it against Duceppe.

"I'm doing this to win," Marois told reporters in Montreal. "I hope [the PQ] will be able to reconnect with the population of Quebec, because we had an important problem on March 26," she said in reference to the PQ's poor showing in the last election.

Marois, 58, has been a member of the PQ for over 30 years, and has held several major cabinet portfolios. Marois had recently retired from politics after her last failed leadership attempt against Boisclair in 2005. CTV's political correspondent Craig Oliver suggests many PQ supporters are regretting, in hindsight, not choosing Marois as the leader. "Many people felt they made a huge mistake not electing her the last time and picking Boisclair instead," said Oliver.

The race for the PQ leadership will have repercussions for the rest of Canada and will be watched closely. "Anything that affects the Bloc Québécois or the Parti Québécois affects all of Canada because this is the party, which would like to break up the country," lamented Oliver.

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