Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party won Canadian national elections on Monday and ended 13 years of Liberal rule, giving Canada a leader who was expected to move the country to the right on social and economic issues.
Prime Minister Paul Martin conceded defeat after official results gave the challengers a near-insurmountable lead. However, it appeared likely the Conservatives' victory margin would be too narrow to avoid ruling as a minority government, making it difficult to get legislation through a divided House of Commons.
"We know that there is an undeniable and unstoppable sentiment for change in the country," deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay told supporters. "A change towards a new, clean, constructive attitude that will exist within a Conservative government."
Relations with the Bush administration will likely improve under Harper as his ideology runs along the same lines of many US Republicans.
According to official results, Conservatives either had won or were leading in races for 122 seats; the Liberals had either won or were leading in races for 103 seats; the separatist Bloc Quebecois appeared to have 50 seats and the New Democratic Party was poised to gain 31 seats. The country's major media outlets called the election for the Conservatives shortly after polls closed nationwide at 10 p.m.