US & Canada

Quebec calls elections as separatists eye victory

Quebec's premier Jean Charest speaks at a rally in his riding of Sherbrooke, Quebec, 31 July 2012
Quebec Premier Jean Charest was required to call an election before the end of 2013

The Canadian province of Quebec will hold elections next month in which a pro-independence party could end the governing federalists' run in power.

The office of Premier Jean Charest, who has been in power since 2003 and hopes for a fourth term, confirmed the poll would take place on 4 September.

Opinion polls suggest his Liberal Party trails the separatist Parti Quebecois.

The campaign will come after recent student tuition protests made international headlines.

Mr Charest has accused his Parti Quebecois (PQ) opponents of egging on the demonstrations, which at times turned violent and resulted in hundreds of arrests.

The premier said on Wednesday that he hoped a "silent majority" would turn out to support him at the ballot box.

"The street has made a lot of noise. It's now time for Quebecers to talk," Mr Charest said at a campaign stop on Wednesday.

"We must decide the type of society we want to live in."

Independence issue

Mr Charest is also expected to argue that his Liberals stand for economic stability, while the PQ's quest for independence from Canada will disrupt markets.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois said in a news conference on Wednesday: "We prefer that Quebec be a normal country. We choose freedom."

She intends to discuss the issue of Quebec's independence on every day of the campaign, CBC News reported.

One opinion poll puts support for the Parti Quebecois at 33%, with the governing Liberals on 31%.

A new party, Coalition for Quebec's Future, has also captured attention with its pledge to unite separatists and federalists.

Mr Charest, who is required to call an election before the end of 2013, held his last cabinet meeting in Quebec City on Wednesday morning.

He then crossed the road to ask the province's lieutenant-governor to dissolve the National Assembly.

Mr Charest, who came to power in 2003, is seeking his fourth term in office.

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