More than 2 million Canadians took advantage of early voting last weekend to cast their votes ahead of the May 2 federal general election—a 34.5 percent increase over the 2008 election. This is Canada’s fourth election in seven years, and turnout was higher than expected amid a general feeling of voter fatigue. In a statement released Tuesday, Elections Canada, an independent, non-partisan agency that monitors and conducts federal elections, expressed optimism at the high turnout but emphasized that the figures were preliminary estimates and that not all polling stations may have yet reported.
The general election was prompted after a non-confidence vote was reached in Parliament. That vote, in turn, came after Parliament found Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government in contempt for not disclosing the full costs of certain anti-crime programs, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets from the United States.
Going into the election, Mr. Harper’s Conservative party was considered to be a frontrunner. Recent polls, though, show the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) gaining traction. An online Angus Reid poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star and La Presse gave it 30 percent of the vote—only 5 percent less than the Conservative Party, and ahead of the 22 percent allocated to the Liberal Party. Some analysts say the NDP’s rise, combined with the high early turnout, suggests voter dissatisfaction with Canada’s traditional parties.
Nonetheless, analysts say the NDP and Liberal parties are competing for the same voters, which could ultimately lead to a win for the Conservatives.
A Canadian political party needs 40 percent of the vote or a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the runner-up to win a majority in the House of Commons. While the NDP seems to be rising in popularity, some say it is competing with the Liberal Party for the same voters, which could ultimately lead to a win for the Conservatives. It remains unclear whether the two opposition parties will form a coalition, with Prime Minister Harper believing that will be the case if his party fails to win a majority and Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff denying any such plans.