Recent polls are showing that the Quebec election is turning into something of a horse race going into the last week of the campaign. The last poll, prepared by Leger Marketing for the Journal de Montreal, has the Parti Quebecois (PQ) a scant 5 percentage points ahead of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), who are themselves almost neck-and-neck with Jean Charest’s Liberals (see Eric Grenier’s usual excellent analysis over at threehundredandeight.com). [Update: CROP has a poll out in today’s La Presse showing the CAQ 5 percentage points behind the PQ, from 9 percentage points in their last poll.]
What strikes me, though, is the slipping PQ lead amongst francophones. At the start of the campaign, the PQ had a whopping 13 percentage point lead amongst francophone voters over the Liberals and CAQ. In the latest Leger poll, that gap has close to a 7 percentage point lead over the CAQ, and closing fast. [Update: CROP put the gap amongst francophones at 6%] Clearly, this has the PQ somewhat worries, Pauline Marois spend yesterday afternoon hectoring her supporters about the dangers of a François Legault led CAQ government.
I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best strategy for her. At this point, in order to eke out a PQ majority government, she needs to encourage CAQ/Liberal vote splitting. Turning on the CAQ as her main opponent, just reinforces its credibility in the eyes of non-PQ voters. Moreover, it enhances Mr. Legault’s (somewhat suspect, given his history) federalist credentials. If I were Ms. Marois, I’d be worried about the risk of the Liberal support collapsing and going over to Mr. Legault (in much the same way that Federal Liberal support collapsed and shifted over to the NDP in the last days of the 2011 federal election campaign).
Mind you, her situation isn’t helped by the decision on the part of student radicals (and professional ass-clowns) to spend their day disrupting the return to university and generally behaving like hooligans. Since, in the eyes of most Quebecers, the student protestors are about as popular as a skunk at a garden party, and the PQ has been quite explicit in its support for their movement, their antics can only hurt the PQ. The likely beneficiary from the student protestors is the CAQ, which has opposed the student protestors, while avoiding the none-too-subtle whiff of incompetence on the part of the Liberals for failing to deal with them.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that, if Francois Legault isn’t the next Premier of Quebec, he’ll be the premier when Pauline Marois’ government falls on its first confidence vote.