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The BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto
"Canada remains a politically divided country"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 07:47 GMT
Canadians give Chretien third term
Jean Chretien
Jean Chretien: Three times prime minister
Canadian voters have elected Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party to a third consecutive term of office with an increased absolute majority, despite opinion poll predictions that it would be a close race.


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

Jean Chretien
With most of the ballots counted, the Liberals have obtained 171 seats in the 301 seat parliament, making important gains in the eastern provinces.

Mr Chretien thanked supporters in his own Quebec constituency.

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

On a day of moderate voter turnout, the main opposition Canadian Alliance Party failed to break out of their western strongholds.

The party's leader, Stockwell Day, conceded defeat after what was described by many as Canada's most bitter campaign.

"He [Jean Chretien] has earned the right and the trust to govern," he said after calling to congratulate the prime minister.

But the BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto says the fact that the Alliance party has held on to its western power base means that Canada remains a politically divided country and Mr Chretien will once again have to deal with a large segment of the population that did not vote for him.

Gamble

Mr Chretien called the snap election almost two years before the end of his five-year term. The gamble has delivered the Liberals a third successive majority, unprecedented in post-war Canadian politics.

Stockwell Day
Stockwell Day: "Not yet"
Before the election there was talk of a leadership review among the Liberals, but our correspondent in Vancouver says Mr Chretien's renewed mandate should strengthen his position as the head of the party.

The charismatic Mr Day had high hopes of making significant gains in this election.

His Canadian Alliance became stronger in the west and consolidated its position as the main party on the right, but failed to make inroads in eastern Canada.

"It is clear that even with our increased support across the country, the message to us is not yet. Not this time," he said.

Vote split

The Alliance seems to have suffered from a classic vote split with the smaller right-wing Conservative Party.


It is clear that even with our increased support across the country, the message to us is not yet

Stockwell Day
Their leader, former Prime Minister Joe Clark, refused to join the Alliance despite fears that the Conservatives might be wiped out.

Mr Clark's Conservatives were leading in only 12 seats, the minimum for a party to have official status.

In Quebec, the separatist Bloc Quebecois were running neck and neck with the Liberals for the province's 75 seats, with Mr Chretien's party making surprising gains.

Bitter campaign

The campaign was one the most bitter battles in living memory, characterised by mudslinging and personal attacks.

One television commentator, Don Newman of CBC, said that, on the personal level, "this was probably the nastiest campaign I have ever seen".

Mr Chretien was relentlessly attacked for personally intervening to persuade a government corporation to give a loan to a business friend so the friend could develop a hotel in which the prime minister once had an interest.

Mr Day came under fire for his fundamentalist Christian views on abortion, the death penalty and creationism.

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