Update 10:50 p.m. EDT: CTV reports the Liberals are elected or leading in 71 seats, the PQ in 30 and the CAQ in 22. There are 125 seats in the assembly. Sixty-three seats is a majority.
Premier Pauline Marois was still in a close battle to hold her own seat.
The Quebec Liberal Party, led by Philippe Couillard, has unseated the separatist Parti Quebecois government in Monday’s provincial election, Canadian media reported less than an hour after the polls closed at 8 p.m. EDT.
The Liberals had more than 45 percent of the popular vote in early returns, CTV News reported, compared with around 30 percent for the incumbent PQ. The Coalition for Quebec's Future (CAQ) was in third place.
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In order to form a majority government in Quebec, a party has to win 63 of the 125 provincial ridings. The CBC projected an outright majority for the Liberals before 9 p.m.
After an acrimonious 33-day campaign, the separatist Parti Quebecois and Premier Pauline Marois are on their way out.
The PQ’s controversial “Quebec values” charter and push for sovereignty did not translate into enough votes for the party to hold on to its minority government.
Opinion polls had been putting the Liberals in the lead for days leading up to election day, but Marois remained defiant and optimistic until the end, telling reporters earlier Monday that her party would win.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Marois said outside the polls in her riding of Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupre, according to CTV. It was unclear in early returns if she had kept her own seat.
The PQ campaign was largely derailed when high-profile candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau, a media mogul, announced that he had entered politics with the goal of creating an independent Quebec.
Since Peladeau's remarks there was a "dramatic shift" away from the PQ toward the Liberals. Although the PQ is a separatist party, it tends not to talk about referendums during election campaigns. The last referendum was in 1995.
Despite Marois' attempts to assure voters that the PQ wouldn't press forward with another referendum until Quebecers were ready, the Liberals capitalized on the issue and moved ahead in the polls, with Francois Legault's CAQ also picking up momentum.