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The separatist Parti Quebecois saw their power base shrink significantly in this week's provincial election.
The Liberal Party headed by Premier Jean Charest won a second consecutive mandate in Monday's vote, while Mario Dumont's conservative Action Democratique beat the Parti Quebecois (PQ) in the battle for second place, leaving the separatist party in third place for the first time in its history.
Charest won a minority mandate, the only time that has happened in Quebec since 1878. He is the party's first leader to fail to win successive majority governments in 40 years.
"Today Quebecers delivered a judgment, a severe one, and the Liberal party and I will have to learn lessons from it," Charest said.
The election results showed a surprising drop is support for PQ leader Andre Boisclair, who is a strong advocate of separation from Canada. The relegation of the party to third place in Quebec's National Assembly suggests an end, for the foreseeable future, to calls for another referendum on separation.
"Our party will work with all the parties in the National Assembly to give Quebecers a stable government that will defend Quebec's interests," Charest said.
Just over 5.6 million people were eligible to vote for the 125 seats in the Assembly. The Liberals took 48, while the dark horse Action Democratique took 41, after winning only four in the 2003 election. The PQ won only 36 seats.
Boisclair acknowledged that democracy has spoken, but insisted the dream of separation was not dead, saying "Our movement is well-anchored in the Quebec population. We are millions of Quebecers who want to make our people a country."
The stunning rise of Mario Dumont's Action Democratique was the story of the night as the party was poised to become the official opposition. Dumont, who had hoped for 15 seats, was shocked by the results.
AP contributed to this report.