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Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois romped to victory in a by-election on Monday, a major step in her bid to revive the fortunes of the sovereigntist party.

With more than one-half of the polls reporting in Charlevoix riding, Ms. Marois had between 55 and 60 per cent of the popular vote, compared with between 35 and 40 per cent for Conrad Harvey of the Action democratique du Quebec.

The governing Liberals did not field a candidate.

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The victory in the riding northeast of Quebec City will give Ms. Marois some much needed visibility in the national assembly when it resumes sitting in a few weeks.

Ms. Marois said earlier Monday she was confident of victory and that she had been given a good reception in the riding throughout the campaign.

Standings in the 125-seat legislature are now as they were after the general election last March: the Liberals, 48; the ADQ, 41; and the PQ 36.

Ms. Marois got the chance to run in Charlevoix when the PQ's Rosaire Bertrand, who had held the riding since 1994, stepped down last month.

Ms. Marois, 58, became PQ leader in June after Andre Boisclair quit in the wake of the election defeat that relegated the party to third place in the legislature.

Ms. Marois, who is originally from the Quebec City region, first sat in the legislature in 1981 when she was elected in La Peltrie riding near Montreal. She was defeated in 1985 but was re-elected in 1989 in the riding of Taillon.

She went on to hold a number of high-profile cabinet posts including finance, health, education and deputy premier.

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She failed to become PQ leader in 1985 and 2005.

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