OTTAWA, April 27 (Reuters) - Canada’s election on May 2 could produce anything from a Conservative majority government to one led by the New Democratic Party, a left-leaning party that has never held power at the federal level.
Recent opinion polls vary greatly, showing support for the Conservatives anywhere between 34 and 43 percent. The NDP have overtaken the opposition Liberals in the most recent polls, with poll numbers between 24 and 30 percent, while support for the Liberals has sagged to between 21 and 26 percent.
At the dissolution of Parliament, the Conservatives had 143 seats, compared with 77 for the Liberals, 47 for the separatist Bloc Quebecois, 36 for the New Democrats and two independents. Three seats were vacant.
The Conservatives won with 37.6 percent of the vote in 2008, the Liberals took 26.2 percent and the NDP 18.2 percent.
Here are some of the possible outcomes of the May 2 election, in which the Conservatives want to transform their minority government into a majority one, and the other parties want to stop them.
The Conservatives need to win an additional 12 seats to get a majority that could govern without needing support from other parties. Normally a party needs support of around 40 percent of the electorate to win a majority, but if the left-of-center vote is split between other parties, they could win a majority with a smaller share of the vote than that.
Likelihood: possible, if the NDP surge splits the left-of center vote
If the Conservatives win more seats than any other party, they will get the first chance of forming a government, but may have to make concessions to win support from at least one other party and stay in power as a minority government. The party has so far pledged to reintroduce the budget it presented in March before the government fell. All the opposition parties had promised to vote against that budget, so an identical document is unlikely to pass. But all bets are off if the Conservatives are only a few seats from a majority, as the opposition might not dare unite to bring them down for fear of a public outcry.
Likelihood: possible, but it’s unclear if it would be stable
If the opposition brings a new Conservative minority government down at the first opportunity, Harper has said he will seek a new election. But that decision would be up to Governor General David Johnston, and many constitutional scholars say he would probably first ask another parties to try to form a government before calling what would be Canada’s fifth election in seven years.
Likelihood: very unlikely
If the Conservatives can’t form a successful minority government, Johnston would turn to the party with the second highest number of seats to see if it could form a government. Under current poll numbers that could be the NDP, so Canada’s new prime minister would be Jack Layton, a man who has come from behind to capture the imagination of a good section of the population. He would need support from other parties, probably the Liberals and possibly also from the separatist Bloc Quebecois to stay in power.
Likelihood: possible, provided support for the NDP stays strong
If the Liberals end up with more seats than the NDP, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff could be given the chance to form a minority government. He would also need support from other parties to stay in power.
Likelihood: unlikely, given current poll numbers
It’s still a long-shot option, but if the Liberal vote collapses completely, and support for the Conservatives also sags badly, the NDP has a remote chance of getting more than 154 seats, handing them a majority in Parliament.
Likelihood: very unlikely (Reporting by Randall Palmer and Janet Guttsman; editing by Peter Galloway)