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Jean Charest: Sovereignty Turmoil Alters Political Landscape For Quebec Premier

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Turmoil in the sovereignty movement has had a dramatic impact on provincial politics in Quebec this summer, with the Parti Québécois polling at new lows and an uptick in support for Premier Jean Charest’s governing Liberals.

A new poll conducted by Léger Marketing for the Journal de Montréal finds that Charest’s government now enjoys the support of 34 per cent of Quebecers, up four points from Léger’s last poll taken in early June.

The Parti Québécois has dropped six points to just 24 per cent — a full 14 points below the party’s standing from four months ago.

The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) is down three points to 14 per cent while Québec Solidaire stands at 12 per cent support and the provincial Greens scored five per cent.

Of note is the 11 per cent of Quebecers who said they would vote for another party – likely having in mind either the nascent Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec (CAQ), led by François Legault, or a new sovereigntist party still in the works. But as neither of these political options currently exists, removing that 11 per cent and distributing it proportionately to the registered parties bumps the Liberals up to 38 per cent and the PQ to 27 per cent support.

The ADQ is ahead around the provincial capital, while the Liberals are leading in and around Montreal and in the rest of Quebec. The PQ holds a narrow lead over the Liberals among francophones at 29 per cent to the Liberals' 26 per cent support.

Only a few months ago the PQ appeared to be on track to replace Jean Charest’s unpopular government, but fully 40 per cent of PQ supporters say that Pauline Marois is not the right person to lead the party into the next election. This contrasts sharply with the 77 per cent of Liberal supporters who believe Charest should stay on as leader.

The formation of a new sovereigntist option, represented in part by some of the independent MNAs who used to form part of the PQ’s caucus, would draw away 19 per cent of the PQ’s current supporters, while 29 per cent would head over to Legault’s CAQ if it stands for election.

Indeed, 31 per cent of Quebecers would vote for the CAQ if it were a registered party. The Liberals would follow in second with 27 per cent, while the PQ would hold on to only 16 per cent of its vote. But this is generally where the CAQ stood in Léger Marketing’s last poll. Jean Charest’s Liberals, on the other hand, are up seven points in this hypothetical scenario.

Nevertheless, Legault would be able to form a majority government with this level of support. The Liberals would form the Official Opposition while the PQ would be reduced to only a handful of seats. Without the formation of the CAQ or the emergence of another sovereigntist party, the Liberals would likely win another majority government of roughly 77 seats with these poll numbers, with 39 going to the PQ and the remainder being split between the flat ADQ and the rising Québec Solidaire.

However, if Jean Charest is thinking of cashing in his chips before Legault has time to organize, he might want to reconsider. Only 21 per cent of Quebecers, and 12 per cent of Liberal supporters, think that a provincial election should be held this fall – two years in advance of the expiration date of Charest’s current mandate.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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