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PQ leader Pauline Marois gestures as she speaks during an interview with a Canadian Press journalist in Quebec City Friday August 24, 2012.

FRANCIS VACHON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Former Parti Québécois premier Jacques Parizeau's public endorsement of Jean-Martin Aussant, leader of the newly-founded pro-sovereignty party Option Nationale, has created havoc with PQ Leader Pauline Marois's efforts at winning a majority government.

Mr. Parizeau donated $200 to Mr. Aussant's campaign and urged all those who support sovereignty to back Mr. Aussant's re-election bid in the riding of Nicolet-Yamaska, located about 150 kilometers east of Montreal.

Mr. Parizeau stopped short of backing Option Nationale outright, a party spokesperson said. But his endorsement of Mr. Aussant's candidacy reinforces the skepticism some sovereignists hold regarding Ms. Marois's true desire to achieve political independence.

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Ms. Marois responded by appealing to all sovereignist and progressive forces to support the PQ if they wanted to rid Quebec of Jean Charest's Liberals.

"If we want to move forwards with our project of achieving a country we need a PQ majority government," Ms. Marois insisted. "I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Parizeau… But we are the only true alternative to the Liberals."

Mr. Parizeau's comments could harm the PQ efforts of winning a majority government, especially if sovereignists hesitate to support Ms. Marois. A public opinion poll released today indicated that support for the PQ remained idle while the Coalition Avenir Québec was slowly attracting a greater number of francophone voters.

The poll, conducted by Léger Marketing for QMI news agency, showed the PQ leading with the support of 33 per cent of voters, ahead of the CAQ at 28 per cent. With 27 per cent, the Liberals were in third place for the first time.

Among the crucial francophone voters who will decide the fate of the Sept. 4 election, the PQ was at 38 per cent with the CAQ was slowly closing the gap with the support of 31 per cent, a four percentage point increase since the last Léger poll was taken. The fight between Ms. Marois and the CAQ's François Legault for the francophone vote underscores the nervous reaction within the PQ ranks over their former leader's support of Mr. Aussant.

The poll indicated that the PQ was headed towards a minority government, though a majority was still in reach. But in order to achieve her objective, Ms. Marois needs to unite the sovereignist forces behind her party, a goal made more difficult following Mr. Parizeau's endorsement of Mr. Aussant.

Mr. Aussant was elected under the PQ banner in 2008 but quit the party in June, 2011, after he lost faith in Ms. Marois' desire to achieve sovereignty. At the time, he urged Ms. Marois to resign as leader of the PQ, saying she was too obsessed with the quest for power and had lost sight of the goal of political independence.

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Mr. Aussant immediately launched his own party and adopted a platform that would have Quebec immediately govern as a sovereign nation. A constitution declaring Quebec's independence would be drafted and put to a vote in a referendum. It was the kind of straightforward strategy Mr. Parizeau relished.

The Parti Québécois had often called on Ms. Marois to define a blueprint for governing an independent country. The party needed to "develop programs for governing an independent Quebec" even before it attempted to win the next election, Mr. Parizeau said in an interview with the Globe and Mail in June, 2010. But it never happened, he said, because too many sovereignists were obsessed with governing a province rather than preparing for independence.

Mr. Parizeau's wife, Lisette Lapointe, shared her husband's perspective and quit the party at the same time Mr. Aussant did to sit as an independent MNA. Ms. Lapointe has since decided to leave active politics but has publicly supported Option Nationale, often campaigning by Mr. Aussant's side.

Option Nationale has barely registered in public opinion polls, attracting the support of about 2 per cent of voters. However, Mr. Aussant needs to win in his own riding if he hopes to have any influence over the course of the sovereignty movement should Ms. Marois win the election.

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