Gilles Duceppe is not a shoo-in to lead the PQ

The Bloc and the PQ have very different cultures and personalities

PQ - leadership en jeu - la tourmente

Yesterday, Le Soleil reported that Parti Quebecois members were being phoned to assess Gilles Duceppe's chances of succeeding Andre Boisclair when the time comes. Not exactly a big surprise.

As the PQ leadership crisis unfolds, the Bloc leader's name remains top of the list of potential replacements should Boisclair leave voluntarily or lose his confidence vote at the PQ's next convention. But Duceppe wouldn't get a free ride.

A couple of weeks ago, on Christiane Charette's Radio-Canada program, I listed three reasons for that. First, although the PQ and the Bloc are ideological allies, their establishments are two very distinct gangs of people with no love lost between them.

Second, PQ headquarters people know that if Duceppe becomes their leader, he'd bring his entourage from Ottawa and oust a number of longtime PQ employees. After the PQ's dismal election results and dire finances that have caused some apparatchiks to lose their jobs, the survivors of the Mario tsunami surely will hold on for dear life. That's why PQ headquarters views Duceppe's arrival as a hostile takeover.

Third, the PQ and the Bloc have two vastly different party cultures. Many at the PQ remember the last time a Bloc leader, Lucien Bouchard, took over. He imposed the type of authoritative leadership that he had developed at the Bloc.
Bouchard had created a highly disciplined Bloc party apparatus, obedient to the leader to a fault. But that isn't the case in the PQ where MNAs in caucus take on their leader's viewpoint in ways that would impress voters. But Bouchard's party culture is the one Duceppe inherited.

This complex reality isn't well known, so many voters were surprised when Duceppe refused to run after Bernard Landry resigned in June 2005. After all, the PQ needed a strong leader for the next election, and Duceppe was extremely popular, having acquired some impressive leadership qualities over the years.

But chances are that Duceppe got the discreet message from the PQ caucus that he should stay in Ottawa, rather than move to Quebec City.
This time, Duceppe apparently has decided to assess his chances directly with the PQ membership by having supporters make those important phone calls for him.

And here's an interesting sign: A sovereignist group that holds a well-attended yearly dinner for La Fete des Patriotes has just sent out its invitations. Guess who's coming to dinner as their special guest speaker this year? Gilles Duceppe. Adding insult to injury, the invitation mentions at the very end that Andre Boisclair "will also be present."

The Duceppe story is just one of many symptoms of the strife and dissatisfaction with the leader that is growing in PQ ranks. Yesterday, former PQ minister Denis Lazure, a respected voice among sovereignists, published a scathing letter in Le Devoir "inviting" Boisclair to resign.

Tomorrow, some very angry PQ riding executives from the Quebec City region - those whom Boisclair has repeatedly criticized since the election for not allowing him to pick his own candidates - will meet to ask for a convention as soon as possible to "clarify" the leadership issue. That's coded language for demanding that Boisclair leave.

Before all riding presidents meet behind closed doors on May 26 to demand a date for the convention, all 125 riding executives will also have met.
That's when Duceppe will know when the job might become open. His problem is that he won't be the only potential successor to find out.

But if he jumps, he'll be the most experienced among those who are also assessing their own chances.

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