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5 things you need to know about the Parti Québécois leadership vote

05/15/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
When all the ballots are counted today, Parti Québécois members will choose the person who they hope will lead their province to independence. 

Hundreds of party faithful will converge on the Quebec City Convention Centre to hear the results of the first round of voting in their party's leadership race. Results will be announced at 9 p.m. ET. 

Here are five things you need to know about the leadership race and today's results:

1. Péladeau seen by many as the PQ 'saviour'

Many party members are looking to one of Quebec's most famous and powerful people — media baron Pierre Karl Péladeau — as the man who can restore the party to power. The controlling shareholder of Quebecor, the largest media company in the province, Péladeau has made "making Quebec a country" his singular mission — a goal that previous leaders, like Pauline Marois, muddied in the past. And no one else has the star power or the reach that Péladeau and his television host-producer wife, Julie Snyder, have among Quebecers. The freshman MNA for St-Jerôme has had a double-digit lead in the polls since even before he announced his candidacy.

2. Péladeau has a first-ballot victory in sight

Opinion polls have put Péladeau comfortably in the 50-per-cent-plus-one territory needed to win on a first ballot even before he declared his candidacy. At the last debate, he asked members to give him a "clear and strong" mandate. MNA and former candidate Bernard Drainville dropped out April 22, citing overwhelming support that has "crystallised" around Péladeau. 

Drainville was the last to drop off the ticket, and that solidified the idea that this leadership race was more of a "coronation" of Péladeau than a competition.

If PKP fails to win on the first ballot, the top two candidates will remain for the second round of voting. There will be a sixth debate the following week and another online and phone vote. The winner would then be announced May 22.

3. Second place is important 

Last week, the Alexandre Cloutier and Martine Ouellet campaigns each released internal polls placing themselves in second place. Both candidates claim Péladeau does not have enough votes to win on the first ballot.

"The race for second is important," says CBC's Quebec political analyst, Bernard St-Laurent. If the vote goes to a second round, he says, only two names will remain on the ballot.

"If that happens, the [second-place] candidate rises in prominence in the party and has a chance of consolidating opposition to Péladeau. If he doesn't win on the first ballot, he has a problem," he says.

4. Candidates have different visions for referendum timeline

It is the Parti Québécois, after all, so a central question for candidates will always be, "When would you hold another referendum?" Ouellet has been the most clear. She says she'll hold one within her first mandate. Cloutier says he will not call a referendum until he collects a million signatures in support of independence.

Péladeau has been less specific, saying he'll wait until before the next election in 2018 to decide on what he will do about a referendum.

5. It's been a long race

The candidates have been campaigning for eight months. They've participated in five official debates held across the province. They have raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Péladeau raised the most money, according to Marc-André Pharand, a master's student at l'Institut des hautes études internationales at Laval University who analyzed PQ leadership campaign donations.

CBC's National Assembly reporter Ryan Hicks (@RyHicks) will be live-tweeting from the Quebec City Convention Centre all day leading up to the 9 p.m. ET results announcement. 

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