Harper fears surge of left-wing support

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The Independent US

Canadians voted in a general election yesterday, a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a final appeal for a "strong, stable, Conservative majority government" and warned he could be toppled by a leftist coalition if he does not get it.

Mr Harper, in power since 2006, has won two elections but never with a majority of parliament's 308 seats. If he does not get a majority this time, the opposition parties are expected to try to form a coalition government.

Until last week, most polls indicated voters would give the Conservative government another mandate. But recent polls indicated a late surge for the left.

The unexpected gains for the New Democratic Party upended previous predictions that the Conservatives would get enough votes for a minority mandate – or even win a majority.

Then a new scenario emerged in which the New Democrats and the Liberals could together win enough seats to form a New Democrat-led coalition.

"We can change the government. We're not just going to oppose Mr Harper, we're going to replace him," New Democrat leader Jack Layton, whose party has socialist roots, said.

Polls showed the race had tightened between the Conservatives and the New Democrats, something no one predicted just weeks ago.