Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Uninspiring

For several decades the electorate of Quebec could be roughly divided into thirty percent ardent seperatists, thirty percent ardent federalists and a mushy middle of about forty percent that are proud to be Quebecers but who are much more pragmatic when it comes to the question of being a seperatist or a federalist.

That means both the PQ and the PLQ have a base of roughly thirty percent and every election these two parties fight to win at least a plurality of the mushy middle.

What was interesting about the election results from last night is both PQ and the PLQ hung onto their bases but were completely incapable of convincing those in the middle to vote for them in significant enough numbers to give either one the decisive victory they were both looking for.  Interestingly, it was the CAQ that won the plurality of the middle but being the only party in the election without a discernable base it was not enough to unseat the other major parties as either the government of the opposition in Quebec.

The PQ won last night but there should be some concern about their inability to inspire enough of the middle to push them over the top to majority government.  As well, they should be very concerned with the fact that they did not even come close to the voting totals for the "Yes" side in 1980 let alone in 1995.  The PQ government will be working hard to try to remedy that in the coming months but they have a long way to go and they may be hampered by their minority government situation, although that is not a given as their chief opposition is leaderless and will be focused on internal PLQ politics for the next few months and the other big opposition party is new to the Quebec National Assembly and may take some time to get its bearings.

The PLQ should be very concerned.  Their base stuck to them not because they were happy with them but because they were afraid of the PQ.  Otherwise they were even less able to convince those outside of their base to support them.  That will probably not change in the foreseeable future so they could be in for a long time wandering the political wilderness and they will have to look over their shoulder at the CAQ.

The CAQ might have an opportunity.  I will admit that I did not follow the campaign as closely as I could have but I followed it enough to realize that they are a pragmatic party when it comes to the notion of separation.  They tend to better reflect the mushy middle in Quebec politics which is the largest segment of the Quebec electorate.  The fact that they were able to come from zero to almost three dozen seats in one election is something that is liable to keep party strategists from both the PQ and PLQ up nights.  If they can consolidate that advancement into the middle into a political base and convince enough anglophone federalists that they can be trusted not to seek separation in the future they could replace the PLQ as the Official Opposition and maybe even win government.  Their position in the National Assembly gives them that opportunity but it also puts them into the glare of a spotlight which might cause them to suffer the same fate as the ADQ, particularly as they try to navigate a minority parliament.

The total inability of either of the two established parties in Quebec to inspire enough people outside of their bases to vote for them is a cause for concern for both of them.  It is too early to assert that the results from last night is a portent of change in Quebec politics but both established parties should assume that could very well be a possibility and develop strategies with that in mind going forward. 

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