The Canadian election campaign kicked off with the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, urging voters to give his Conservatives an outright majority to stave off a "reckless" left-of-centre coalition government that would pose a danger to the economy.
Opposition parties brought down Mr Harper's government on Friday in a no-confidence vote over ethics, triggering an election that polls show the Conservatives will win – but again without a parliamentary majority.
The main opposition Liberal party has ruled out forming any coalition government, but Mr Harper angrily accused the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, of being willing to seize power illegitimately by allying with the two other opposition parties even if the Conservatives win the most votes in the election on 2 May.
This will be Canada's fourth national election in seven years, reflecting the failure of either major party to obtain a parliamentary majority.
There has been talk that the left-of-centre parties might join forces in a coalition if Mr Harper wins another minority government.
But Mr Ignatieff emphasised on the campaign's opening day that the leader of the party that won the most seats in the election should be asked to form the government. He said that if the Liberals led in total seats but lacked a majority he would not try to form a coalition.