Quebec's opposition nationalists have suffered a heavy defeat in elections in the French-speaking province, putting paid to plans for an independence vote.
The province faces an uncertain future
But the ruling Liberal Party also fared badly, losing its majority amid a surge by the right-of-centre Action Democratic party (ADQ).
The ADQ advocates more autonomy for Quebec, but within a federal Canada.
Correspondents say it appears Quebec will have a minority government for the first time in more than 100 years.
The nationalists, the Parti Quebecois (PQ), which had promised to hold a referendum on independence if elected, was trailing in third place.
The last referendum on the issue, in 1995, rejected separation by about one percentage point.
The provincial assembly's 125 seats were contested on Monday.
5.6m registered voters
80% of them are French speakers
125 seats up for election
The ADQ is led by Mario Dumont, a charismatic figure who has been attracting voters disillusioned with the established players.
Analysts say that many of the ADQ's votes came from those disaffected with the separatist Parti Quebecois.
With around two-thirds of the ballots counted, the ADQ, which went into the polls with five seats in Quebec's National Assembly, appeared set to secure about 40 seats.
That put it just behind the Liberal Party but ahead of the PQ.
But there was confusion over the fate of Liberal Premier Jean Charest, who initially appeared to have lost his seat to the PQ but regained the lead.
PQ leader Andre Boisclair has accused him of being too close to the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper.