In Monday’s elections, the Conservative Party won 124 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons but fell below the 155 needed to form a majority. Without any natural allies, the Conservatives will need to compromise with opponents to maintain power in a country where minority governments rarely last longer than 18 months.
The ruling Liberals won 103 seats while the left-leaning New Democratic Party won 29 seats. The Bloc Quebecois, which campaigns only in the French-speaking province of Quebec, won 51 seats.
The Conservative leader Stephen Harper, a 46-year-old economist and hockey enthusiast, will replace outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin who has been prime minister for only 25 months.
“Each and every day, I will assure you of one thing — I will dedicate myself to making Canada more united, stronger, more prosperous and a safer country,” Harper said after his win.
Martin’s re-election ambitions were damaged by two years of investigations into a kickback scandal that led to a vote of no confidence in November. Voters said they were fed up with the financial scandals and wanted a change.
During his campaign, Harper adopted a more centrist approach and promised to cut taxes and increase defense spending while ruling out any changes in Canada’s abortion law. He also softened his party’s previous opposition to gay marriage and the Kyoto climate protocol.
Harper ran in 2004 but lost when the Liberals portrayed him as too close to the United States. The Conservative victory in 2006 is anticipated to improve relations with the United States that were strained under Martin’s leadership.
“The United States and Canada have a strong and broad bilateral relationship and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with the new government,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Harper is due to meet Martin on Tuesday to decide when power will formally change hands.