Bloc Québécois improves seat count, shows it goes through tough times

Pro-indy party gets 10 seats in House of Commons, up from 4 in 2011, only manages to get 1 in 5 votes in Quebec · Liberal Party secures absolute majority · Next Liberal PM holds critical views on Quebec nationalism

Gilles Duceppe.
Gilles Duceppe. Author: Louperivois
Bloc Québécois (BQ) yesterday managed to win 10 seats in the Canadian House of Commons. This result means the pro-independence party has avoided a disaster foreseen by surveys just a few months ago, when it was expected to get a mere 2 seats. On the other hand, the Liberal Party achieved a remarkable result, as it earned 39.5% of the votes and 184 seats, which grants the Liberals an absolute majority. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is now set to become the next Canadian PM.

The Liberals -who were until now in opposition- gained a majority of votes and seats in all provinces -in Quebec too- except for Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Conservative Party has traditionally obtained a majority support, which was also the case yesterday.

Analysts are today pointing out that the Conservatives, with PM Stephen Harper at the helm, had adopted increasingly right-wing stances over the 2011-2015 term, which might have alienated many centre voters. Harper's party went down from 39.6% of the votes and 167 seats in 2011 to 31.9% and 99 seats yesterday.

But the Liberal victory is also explained by the New Democratic Party (NDP) collapse, which fell down from 102 seats and 30.6% of the vote in 2011 to 19.7% of the votes and 44 seats now. The Liberals and the New Democrats usually vie for support from the same centre and centre-left voters.

Trudeau -the son of Pierre Trudeau, a Québécois, who was the Canadian PM between 1968 and 1984- holds views that are very critical as regards Quebec nationalism, an ideology that he considers to be trapped in the 19th century. Trudeau had previously denied that Quebec is a nation, a status that the French-speaking province has officially held since 2006.

Despite having more seats, low figures for BQ in Quebec

While the Bloc Québécois might be satisfied to some degree because it yesterday won 10 seats -4 in 2011-, it is also true that the party's share of vote has again declined (23.4% of the Quebec's votes four years ago, 19.3% now). Only the Canadian first-past-the-post electoral system explains why the BQ managed to capture more seats despite having a lesser share of votes.

The comparison with previous federal elections exposes how the pro-independence party is going through tough times. In 2008, the BQ won 49 seats; 51 in 2006; 54 in 2004; and 38 in 2000.

In order to avoid total collapse, the party decided to ask its former leader Gilles Duceppe to again head the election campaign. The choice seems to have worked, but only to some extent, as Duceppe himself did not manage to win in his own constituency.