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Separatists win Quebec elections, shots fired during speech, 1 dead, gunman detained

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The separatist Parti Quebecois has won Quebec’s regional elections and will form a new government there, once again raising the possibility of a referendum on independence being held in Canada’s French-speaking province.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp and the Canadian Press reported that Parti Quebecois (PQ) won or were leading in nearly 60 districts, just short of the 63 needed for a majority government.

The party’s leader, Pauline Marois, will replace head of the Liberal party, Jean Charest, as the province’s leader, becoming Quebec’s first female premier.

Crowds of jubilant PQ followers, cheered and waved flags as election results indicated their party was heading back to power after nine years of Liberal Party rule.

Should PQ win a majority it will make it easier for them to call a referendum on independence. Quebec has held two referendums in the past – one in 1980 and another in 1995- with the last narrowly rejecting independence from Canada.

However PQ claim their short-term priority would be picking the economy up off its knees, instead of pushing for a separation vote straight away.

“It’s very important for me to manage our finances responsibly. That is without doubt why our engagements are the least costly of all parties,” Pauline Marois earlier told Canadian media, while outlining a program that sets out new spending at $1 billion over a five year period.

At the same time she stated that she would hold an independence vote “tomorrow morning” if the conditions were right.

The long-ruling Liberal Party’s loss comes after months of student and union protests raging this spring and summer against tuition hikes in the province and the controversial new Bill 78, which restricts mass gatherings in the province.

Tens of thousands of students have made their outrage public by demonstrating and clashing with police, making headlines across the world. Protests began in February, resulting in about 2,500 arrests. Tuesday’s vote is seen by many as an echo of this public discontent.

Quebec premier victory speech: Shots fired, 1 dead, gunman detained

Quebec’s newly-elected Premier Pauline Marois has been rushed off stage during her acceptance speech, after shots were heard inside Montreal’s Metropolis concert hall. One man is reported dead.

Another person is in a critical condition and one more witness is being treated for shock, Montreal police have informed Canadian media.

Ian Lafrenière stated that the dead man was in his 40s and that two guns were recovered at the scene, but there was no reason to believe there was more than one shooter.

After firing shots the gunman started a fire behind the downtown Montreal venue where Marois’ supporters had gathered, Reuters reports.

Video has emerged, reportedly showing a man in a blue bathrobe and black balaclava with a gun on the ground surrounded by police. Video footage showed a high-powered rifle, which Twitter users identified as an AK-47 or Valmont Hunter weapon.

The gunman is said to be 50 years old and was apparently shouting “the English are waking up” in French with a Canadian-English accent as he was subdued.

Marois heads the separatist Parti Quebecois, which seeks independence for the French-speaking province of Quebec.

The premier-elect returned to the stage a few minutes after she left it, urging her supporters who packed the hall to leave calmly, stating that “there was a little unfortunate incident,” so as not to create panic. Everyone was evacuated and police are investigating.

“We don’t know what was [behind] that event,” police spokesperson Dany Richer told CBC. “Our investigators are going to meet with [the detained] overnight.”
Quebec’s election

This event comes as the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) won Quebec’s provincial elections and will form a new government there, once again raising the possibility of a referendum on independence being held in Canada’s French-speaking province.

According to the latest results, PQ has won or was leading in 57 ridings in Tuesday’s election, just shy of the 63 needed for a majority in the 125-seat legislature.

The party’s leader Pauline Marois, 63, will replace the head of the Liberal party, Jean Charest, and will become the province’s first female premier.

Just before the shooting incident took place Marois took the stage for her acceptance speech telling her supporters that she hopes to put aside all the difference for a united Quebec.

“Voters have made a choice and we will respect it, and we will govern with all other parties at the national assembly,” she said.

PQ’s win is a significant loss for the Liberals, who governed the province for almost a decade.

Jean Charest miscalculated the mood of the electorate, believing voters would support the Liberals for a fourth term. He ended up losing his own riding of Sherbrooke to a PQ candidate.

“This is not the result I would have wanted. This is not a battle that I backed away from. I now have the firm conviction that our party will continue to serve Quebec, and will do it together,” Charest told his supporters.

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