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Canadian PM seeks overall majority

Canada's latest election campaign has kicked off with prime minister Stephen Harper urging voters to give his Conservatives an outright majority to stave off a "reckless" left-of-centre coalition government that would pose a danger to the economy.

Opposition parties brought down Mr Harper's government in a no confidence vote over ethics issues, triggering an election that polls show the Conservatives will win but again without a parliamentary majority.

The main opposition Liberal party has ruled out forming any coalition government, but Mr Harper angrily accused Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff of being willing to seize power illegitimately by allying with the two other opposition parties even if the Conservatives win the most votes in the May 2 election.

This will be Canada's fourth national election in seven years, reflecting the failure of either major party to obtain a parliamentary majority and leaving successive governments dependent on opposition votes to stay in power.

The three opposition parties combined held 160 seats in the outgoing Parliament, while the Conservatives held 143.

There has been talk that the left-of-centre parties might join forces in a coalition if Mr Harper wins another minority government.

But Mr Ignatieff emphasised on the campaign's opening day that the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the election should be asked to form the government. He said that if the Liberals lead in seats but lack a majority he would not try to form a coalition with the leftist New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Leslie Church, a spokeswoman for Mr Ignatieff, later elaborated in that the Liberals also would not try to form a left-of-centre coalition if Mr Harper's Conservatives win the most seats but not a majority.

"Coalition is off the table," Ms Church said. "It's an unequivocal ruling out of a coalition. What you see is what you get - no NDP or Bloc members in the Cabinet of a Liberal government. Simple, clear, straightforward."

But Mr Harper said the Liberals can't be trusted to keep their word and warned that a "reckless opposition coalition" would pose a danger to the economy.

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