OTTAWA — Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s gamble for a place in Canadian history paid off Monday as his Liberal Party appeared to have won a third straight majority in nationwide elections, according to Canadian news organizations.
The Liberals won or had solid leads in more than 160 of the races for the 301 seats in the House of Commons, more than enough seats to guarantee them a majority, according to projections by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the news agency Canadian Press.
The news organizations said they based their projections on official results coming across the country of 30 million people.
The results were clearest in the more heavily populated eastern Canada. Returns were still being counted in much of central and western Canada.
The result appeared to reflect that Canadians were enjoying an economic boom and looked forward to Liberal promises of $67 billion in tax cuts over five years. It also appeared that Canadians were willing to forgive Chretien, 66, for calling the election just 3 1/2 years into his second five-year term.
Monday’s apparent outcome was similar to the previous vote in 1997, when the Liberals won 155 of the 301 House of Commons seats. The majority victory means Chretien will be the longest-serving leader of the world’s industrial powers when President Clinton steps down in January.
It would also secure his legacy as one of only three Liberal leaders able to deliver three straight majority victories, something that even Pierre Trudeau was unable to do.
Trudeau’s death in September, and the subsequent emotional outpouring that boosted Liberal support, contributed to Chretien’s decision to take a chance with an early vote that could evoke a backlash from voters.
He also wanted to prevent the newly formed Canadian Alliance from gaining momentum in its efforts to consolidate conservative support, and needed to fend off moves within his own Liberal Party to make him step aside.
Failure to win a majority would likely have forced out Chretien as party leader in favor of heir apparent Paul Martin, the finance minister who has much greater personal popularity.
Regardless of the outcome, no change was expected in Canada-U.S. relations. The two countries form the world’s largest two-way trade partnership, with Canada’s economic growth in recent years dependent on a similar boom south of the border in the dominant U.S. economy.
Voters chose the representative from their district to the House of Commons. There was no direct voting for prime minister. The Liberals, guaranteed a majority, will form the next government with Chretien, the party leader, as prime minister.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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