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Canadian premier retains seat, but majority in doubt

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first major world leader to face voters since the global financial meltdown, led his Conservative Party to victory in Tuesday's election but was forecast to fall short of a majority in Parliament.

The election agency reported on its Web site that the Conservatives had won at least 142 of Parliament's 308 seats in early counting, an improvement over the 127 seats the party won in its 2006 election victory.

But, based on results obtained from election officials, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. predicted the Conservative Party would not win the 155 seats needed to govern on its own, forcing it to again rely on opposition support to pass budgets and legislation.

Harper had called elections early in hopes of getting his party a majority, but the Conservatives expressed pleasure in expanding their number of seats.

The party winning the most seats generally forms the government, with its leader becoming prime minister. The opposition parties could unite and topple Harper if they won enough seats for a majority, but analysts said that was unlikely because the parties have no tradition of forming such coalitions.

The opposition Liberals have typically been the party in power, forming the government for most of Canada's 141 years. But the left-of-center vote was divided among four parties, giving an edge to the Conservatives.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion's campaign was hindered by his unpopular plan to tax all fossil fuels except gasoline and by perceptions he is a weak leader. A former professor from French-speaking Quebec, Dion also suffered in other regions because he frequently mangles English grammar.

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