As she prepared to cast her vote in the Quebec provincial election Tuesday morning, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said she had waited a long time for this moment.
“It would be the first time Quebeckers chose a woman to lead Quebec,” Ms. Marois said. “I’ve been preparing for this moment for 30 years.”
After casting her vote in the riding of Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré, Ms. Marois headed back to Montreal to await the results. “I feel quite serene and I have confidence in the voters of Quebec,” she said heading into the voting booth.
In recent days Ms. Marois said she hasn’t witnessed such an enthusiasm and a degree of readiness by her party in more than 15 years. That may become an important factor in determining whether Ms. Marois can pull ahead of the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec in enough ridings to form a majority government. The stakes are high for Ms. Marois and her party, which has spent nine years in opposition overcoming tensions and internal dissent among rank-and-file members.
Public opinion polls indicated that hotly contested races in about 40 out of the province’s 125 ridings could determine the outcome of the election.
At 11:30 a.m., voter turnout stood at 25.24 per cent. Updated figures were scheduled to be released at 3:30 p.m.
Liberal Leader Jean Charest hit the trail early in the morning to make quick stops at six local Liberal campaign offices, mostly in the suburbs north of Montreal.
The stops aren’t designed to persuade voters – those efforts ended Monday. Instead, Mr Charest and the other leaders are trying to boost morale among the party volunteers who are key to getting out identified voters.
The leaders will also be conducting less visible efforts, such as working the phones to encourage local campaign workers.
Mr. Charest will vote this afternoon in his hometown of Sherbrooke, where he will also watch the election results.
There has been one major wildcard throughout this election: Francois Legault’s new Coalition Avenir Québec party.
With the polls relatively tight, it has never been clear whether this new party might ultimately play the role today of contender, spoiler, kingmaker, or non-entity.
Less than a year old, the party gobbled up the ADQ and touted itself as a third way for voters seeking to turn the page on the province’s highly polarized politics.
The Coalition has made gains in polls over the course of the campaign but none has pointed to a victory for the new party.
Mr. Legault voted in the riding of L'Assomption, and was then scheduled to head to a restaurant to shake hands with voters.
With files from the Canadian Press
The big numbers:
Polls open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. ET.
Number of eligible voters: 5.9 million.
Number of those who voted in advance polls: 919,120
Voter turnout in 2008: 57 per cent, one of the lowest ever.