Interesting preliminary results from Quebec. As we go to press, the Parti Quebecois is set to be the plurality party with 32.4% of the vote and 58 seats in the National Assembly. The current ruling Liberals got 30.7% and 45 seats and the conservative francophone CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec or Coalition for Quebec's Future; they don't seem to translate the name on the English side of the party website) got 27.3% and 20 seats. The leftist Quebec Solidaire (the PQ is of the left to begin with, but QS is out in Occupy-land) got 2 seats and 5.8%.
63 seats is a majority and a PQ-QS coalition gets only 60. So, unless some results shift as the night goes on, we'll need to have some sort of coalition, either one party supporting the other on a vote-by-vote basis or a formal sharing of cabinet seats.
The most natural combination would be a Liberal-CAQ one. The CAQ leaders just left the PQ, so being junior partners with the PQ would be awkward. Likewise, the PQ folks have Liberal-bashing in their DNA, so a grande coalition would be problematic.
Will the PQ scream that they had the most votes and have the moral mandate to rule? Likely, but 32.4% is a pretty lame mandate. That's more a vote against a third Liberal term than anything, especially as the CAQ has buzzed into a third major party. A Liberal-CAQ coalition adds up to 58% of the vote and a majority of the seats, so that has more of a air of democracy than a 32% plurality seizing power.
[Update 1115: I just got done watching some of the CBC coverage (we get a Montreal CBC feed on Midland cable) and the PQ might well get first shot at a government. CAQ leader François Legault gave a gracious speech, offering to work with and respect PQ leader and presumptive premier Pauline Marois as long as the PQ would be working in ways the CAQ could support. The CBC talking heads were impressed, noting that the CAQ would have done better if Legault were that good on the stump during the five weeks of the campaign; charisma doesn't seem to be his strong suit, but he looked and sounded like a prospective premier later in the decade, although it might not have sounded quite as good in French.
Legault didn't seem to be playing at all for a Liberal-CAQ coalition; I didn't hear the L world mentioned in the part of the speech I just saw. That's not a bad tone to take, waiting to see what the PQ would bring out as a governing platform and critiquing it.
The first move, if I understand it, is the Throne Speech, the loose analog to the State of the Union, which is actually delivered by the premier in Quebec rather than by the Queen's rep. Getting the Throne Speech accepted is the first trick of a Canadian leader with a plurality government. That might be the thing to watch in the weeks to come, to see what a Premier Marois would do with that Throne Speech.
If she sticks to governmental reforms that would weed out corruption that seemed to plague the outgoing Liberal government, she might get CAQ support. Getting stuff that is either too leftist or too confrontationally separatist might cause the CAQ pulling support and seeing a new election.
I'll leave on a funny point. I saw the first bit of outgoing premier Charest's speech. The translator insisted on even translating merci as he thanked the crowd. I think just about anyone watching that would be able to translate that themselves; it ruined the moment.]