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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Canada PM calls general election
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin
Mr Martin wants his own mandate to govern
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has called a general election for 28 June.

Mr Martin, who replaced Jean Chretien just over five months ago, had been widely expected to seek the vote in a bid to strengthen his hold on power.

He will be hoping to secure a fourth successive victory for his Liberal Party, despite a corruption scandal that has cost it public support.

Opinion polls put the party ahead, but not by enough to be sure of securing an outright majority.

On Saturday, an Ipsos-Reid poll for the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper indicated the party's backing had fallen by four percentage points to 35%.

Observers say 40% of the vote is generally considered necessary to win a majority of seats in the Canadian parliament.

Fraud

The Liberals' reputation has been tarnished by revelations of government misuse of funds.

A report published in February lifted the lid on a scandal involving a project to promote national unity in Canada, on which up to C$250m ($188m) of taxpayers' money was spent between 1997 and 2001.

At least half the money was siphoned off by Quebec advertising and communication agencies with ties to the Liberal Party, an audit found.

Mr Martin was finance minister at the time and insists he was unaware of the fraud taking place.

The BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto says Mr Martin also faces a renewed opposition, with a new Conservative Party formed out of two parties that previously split the country's right-wing vote.

He says even Canada's dormant third party, the socialist New Democrats, have a charismatic new leader and already appear to be gaining support at the expense of the Liberals.

However, our correspondent adds that Mr Martin remains personally popular and is given high marks for integrity and honesty.




SEE ALSO:
Canada MPs quiz former minister
19 Mar 04  |  Americas
Ottawa 'damaged' by funds scandal
14 Feb 04  |  Americas
Ottawa 'mishandled' public funds
11 Feb 04  |  Americas
Canadian prime minister sworn in
12 Dec 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
12 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Canada
14 Jan 04  |  Country profiles


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