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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 08:13 GMT
Jean Chretien: Veteran fighter
Jean Chretien
Jean Chretien: Known to relish a good fight
After nearly 40 years in the political arena, Jean Chretien has been elected to head the Canadian Government for a third consecutive term - the first politician to achieve that since the 1940s

In a campaign marked by accusations of cronyism and arrogance, re-election was considered a tough challenge.

But the veteran politician is known to relish a good fight.

In his early life, Jean Chretien managed to overcome both financial and physical obstacles.

The 18th of 19 children, he was born into a working-class family in 1934, in the Quebec town of Shawinigan. Other children teased him for his partial deafness, and for an attack of Bell's Palsy which left his face partly paralysed.

Paul Martin
Finance Minister Paul Martin: Snapping at Chretien's heels?
It was his activist father who spurred him on to pursue a career in politics, and by the age of 29 he had won a parliamentary seat.

Mr Chretien went on to secure a seat in the Cabinet just five years later, became Canada's first French-Canadian finance minister and served in several posts under the charismatic Pierre Trudeau.

Mr Chretien failed to win the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1984, but succeeded after a second attempt in June 1990.

He beat Paul Martin, the man he would later choose as his finance minister, and who is now seen by many as his heir apparent.

After becoming Liberal leader, Mr Chretien's party won a landslide victory in 1993, taking 177 of 295 seats. A second election in 1997 gave the Liberals much narrower success, with 155 out of 301 seats.

Taking a risk

In calling a snap poll with 1.5 years of his term still to run, he was thought to be gambling that a big budget surplus and the outpourings of grief over Pierre Trudeau's recent death would bolster his position.

Stockwell Day
Chretien has been accused of seeking to profit from Stockwell Day's inexperience
Others have claimed that Mr Chretien was keen to ensure that former preacher Stockwell Day, the leader of the newly-formed opposition party Canadian Alliance, would not have time to develop a national following.

Mr Chretien, on the other hand, insisted the time was right for a new mandate, following nearly seven years of austerity budgets, so Canadians could decide how to spend the budget surpluses of the past two years.

The strong economy was on his side. But on the other hand some predicted voters could punish him for alleged political opportunism.

The gamble paid off - Mr Chretien obtained a majority of over 170 seats.

During the campaign Mr Chretien said that if he was re-elected he might step down two or three years into the five-year mandate.

But after receiving a strengthened majority, he spoke of serving the whole term.

"I pledge to work hard every single day throughout the whole of this mandate to continue to earn your trust and your support," he told his supporters.

"It's an incredible opportunity to receive a mandate like this."

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28 Nov 00 | Americas
Canadians give Chretien third term
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