Voting underway in Canada

AFP , Monday 2 May 2011

Canadians go to the ballot box as conservatives fight social democrats for a majority in parliament

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives a thumbs up after speaking in a campaign rally in Stratford, Prince Edward Island, Canada near Charlottetown on Sunday, (AP).

Voting got underway in Canada Monday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives fighting to stave off a late election surge from the left-leaning New Democratic Party.

Canadians for the fourth time in seven years were to choose a government, with polls showing conservatives facing a strong challenge from Jack Layton's NDP, after a five-week campaign that has seen dwindling Tory hopes for clinching a majority in the House of Commons.

Support for the left-of-center NDP has grown rapidly in recent weeks, while the Conservatives have been unable to broach the 40 percent support mark that typically translates into a majority in the House of Commons.

Polls leading up to the election showed Conservatives in the lead with about 37 percent support, just shy of a technical threshold for returning a majority of MPs to the nation's 308-seat parliament.

The New Democratic Party meanwhile polls about 31.7 percent support in the last week of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the venerable Liberals and the separatist Bloc Quebecois saw their support tumble to 20.5 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.

Polling stations opened at 1100 GMT in the easternmost Atlantic island province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with polling stations opening at staggered times across Canada.

Polling stations were due to close in westernmost British Columbia province at 0330 GMT Tuesday, and first election results were to be released a half hour later.

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