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PQ Leader Pauline Marois reviews her briefing note prior to a news conference in Chateauguay, Que., on Saturday, September 1, 2012.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The Parti Québécois may be closing in on a majority government but the party's success will depend on how the federalist vote splits, especially in the predominantly francophone ridings of surburban Montreal, a new poll shows.

According to a new Léger Marketing poll for QMI news agency, PQ support remained stable at 33 per cent, as it has throughout the election campaign. Meanwhile, at 28 per cent, François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec was still slightly ahead of Jean Charest's Liberals, which ranked third at 27 per cent. The more left-wing pro-sovereignty Quebec Solidaire party received the support of 7 per cent of those surveyed.

PQ leader Pauline Marois appeared to be consolidating her support among francophones with the backing of 38 per cent of French-speaking voters, compared to 31 per cent for the CAQ and only 18 per cent for the Liberals. Mr. Charest's inability to rally support among the vital francophone vote has struck a blow to the party's chances of winning a fourth mandate, the poll indicated.

According to pollster Jean-Marc Léger, the PQ will form the next government based on the results of this newest poll. However, close races in the seven ridings just north of Montreal may decide whether Ms. Marois can form a majority or a minority government and if the CAQ will form the official opposition.

"These are ridings the CAQ must win if it hopes to form the official opposition," Mr. Léger told QMI. And as for the PQ's battle for a majority government, Mr. Léger estimated that Ms. Marois was perhaps one percentage point away from of achieving her objective. "For a majority you need 34 per cent. That's the magic figure," Mr. Léger said.

With less than 48 hours left in the campaign before the Sept. 4 vote, the PQ and the CAQ were locked in closed races in several ridings near Montreal, with both parties concentrating their efforts on the hotly-contested surburban region just north and east of the city.

The poll also showed that CAQ has a particularly strong footing in the Quebec City area, but that support remains volatile in other regions. However, PQ support is solid, Mr. Léger noted, saying that 85 per cent of those who said they will vote for Ms. Marois said their choice was definitive.

"The PQ has an advantage, the CAQ vote is more fluid. There is more and more potential that it could drop rather than increase. Their vote is more fragile," he said.

The majority of those polled – 53 per cent – were convinced the PQ will form the next government but only 14 per cent believe the party will win a majority. The survey also indicated that seven out of ten respondents said they will exercise their right to vote, which would indicate a much higher turnout than the record-low 57 per cent noted in the 2008 election.

The poll was held between Aug. 29 and Aug. 31. The survey was conducted using 1,856 eligible voters randomly selected from a pool of 185,000 internet users. A poll this size is considered accurate within 2.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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