I thought I could go election-free for a little while, but my provincial Prime Minister decided, 12 hours after the election of President-elect Barack Obama, that it would be unhealthy for us political freaks to have no election to follow. So he decided to hold snap elections on December 8th.
Everyone is a bit puzzled as to why exactly we need election right now. The official excuse the Liberal Party needs a strong mandate from the people to deal effectively with the economical crisis which it can't do as a minority party. It sounds quite fishy, especially considering that Québec hasn't been hard hit by the crisis thanks to strong national banking regulations. The real reason is of course is that Jean Charest is tired of being a minority party and he believes right now is his best chance to be elected with a majority. That would make his job safe for 4 years, enough to weather the unavoidable repercussions of the american recession and give him time to recover before the next elections. He probably fears that a slowdown is inevitable and knows that if the opposition forces him to hold election during a slowdown, he'll be held accountable for the poor economy.
Here's a very quick breakdown of political party in Quebec and my prediction for the election. The Liberal Party is the current government, headed by Jean Charest. He had two term as Prime Minister, one from 2003 to 2007 where he was in the majority and the last one since 2007 where he is a minority government. He had severe popularity problems during his first term, but he has managed to improve his image in the last few years. The Liberal Party is a "centrist" Party that is for maintaining Québec in Canada.
The ADQ is the current official opposition, headed by Mario Dumont. It's widely said that his party is to the right of the spectrum but it'd be more accurate to describe it as a populist one-man show. They had a very strong showing in 2007 and everyone expected the party to mature and become a serious contender in Quebec politics, but having the spotlight of the official opposition actually highlighted the "broche-a-foin" (for those who don't read french: that's not a compliment) nature of this party. They're an "autonomous" party, meaning they're not for independence but they want more autonomy for Québec inside Canada. It's widely assumed that the ADQ will be the biggest loser of this election.
The PQ, headed by Pauline Marois, is the official independence party and is to the left of the political spectrum. This party has suffered a crushing defeat in 2007 and hopes to recover. They have decided to put the referendum project for independence on the backburner for now, because they know that the idea of another big drama referendum now will not win them any voter. But the leader, although very experienced, has an image problem as a boring, rich and out-of-touch politican. That campaign will be her chance to change that.
My predictions? I think Jean Charest will be able to squeeze out a weak majority. The ADQ will be banished from the opposition to where they belong, the back of the Assembly (until they mature and show they can do something more than whine and criticize). The PQ will become the official opposition but I don't think they can do any better.