Marois might be third-time lucky

The Parti Quebecois would be wise to decide what it stands for before choosing a new leader

PQ - succession de Boisclair

They say "be careful what you wish for, it just might happen." Words Premier Jean Charest might have to ponder soon. In his inaugural speech, he spoke proudly, with reason, about the equal number of women and men his new cabinet.
With this, he said: "I want it to be clear for all the young girls in Quebec that no summit is out of their reach." "I wanted to break the glass ceiling, that invisible barrier," he added.
Those words must have been music to at least one woman who has hit that ceiling a few times: Pauline Marois. With Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair now gone, her name came up almost as fast as that of Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe as a potential successor.

With Duceppe's scarce support in the PQ caucus - but not as scarce as it was in 2005 after Bernard Landry resigned - Marois even topped Duceppe in a quicky Leger Marketing poll as the first choice for next PQ leader.
Even with a new leader, the greatly weakened PQ might fail to be a major threat in the next election, but it's a sure bet that Charest would have preferred to have Boisclair continue to drag the PQ down.
But if Marois gives it another shot, Charest's words on the glass ceiling will sound premonitory. Although there were other factors, Marois probably lost some support in 2005 because of her sex and age. But now that Boisclair, a younger man, has failed, perhaps being a 50-something woman will work in her favour. Who knows?
One thing is certain: As Boisclair's tenure grew more difficult, so did a feeling in the PQ that it might have picked the wrong leader in 2005. And guilt can be a powerful thing.
Marois has also manoeuvred differently this time. Since her defeat, she has kept quiet on anything related to the PQ. It's obvious that her discretion, as opposed to Bernard Landry's omnipresence, was deliberate, allowing her to keep her options open, stay out of any controversy and keep her from entering the ever-expanding group of chatty former leaders or ministers.
To keep visible, she chose to make sporadic and handpicked media hits on non-political issues. She also has a biography in the works. No coincidence there, either.
She has also received the quick support of some PQ MNAs. Some do it to try to keep Duceppe away. Some do it out of conviction. But Duceppe wants it , too, and he wants it bad.
The Duceppe and Marois camps have gone into high gear to assess their guys' chances. But by next week, both potential candidates probably will have spoken to try to avoid a leadership battle between them that would leave the loser fatally wounded.
So it might come down to Pauline or Gilles as the front-runner, followed by either a coronation, or a leadership race with other candidates.
The danger for the PQ is that history could repeat itself if Pequistes don't curb their premature enthusiasm for one or the other. Stuck in third-party status and in really deep trouble, PQ members run the risk of falling prey, again, to the saviour syndrome.
In 2005, many thought it was Boisclair, so young, fresh and modern. Today, for some, it's Marois, a woman whose time they think has come. For others, it's Duceppe, the leader they believe would come battle-ready, or Pierre Curzi, for his communication skills.
It could all be true. Or it could all be, once again, just an illusion. Only time will tell if there's anyone out there who can keep the patient alive through the next election.
And if so, for what purpose? To keep the sovereignist option as its core objective, or to morph into just another nationalist party?
Because if Pequistes are looking for another saviour, they would be wise to know beforehand what it is that they want to save.

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