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Harper in plea as Canadians vote

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Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper made a final appeal for a Conservative-majority government as Canada goes to the polls (AP)

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper made a final appeal for a Conservative-majority government as Canada goes to the polls (AP)

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper made a final appeal for a Conservative-majority government as Canada goes to the polls (AP)

Canadians have gone to the polls - a day after prime minister Stephen Harper made a final appeal for a "strong, stable, Conservative majority government" and warned he could be toppled by a leftist coalition if he does not get it.

Mr Harper, in power since 2006, has won two elections but never with a majority of Parliament's 308 seats.

If he does not get a majority this time, opposition parties are expected to try to form a coalition government.

Until last week, most polls indicated Canadian voters would give the Conservative government another mandate, but recent polls show a late surge for the left, which could redraw Canada's landscape and leave Mr Harper out of a job.

The unexpected gains for the New Democratic Party have upended previous soundings that predicted the Conservatives would get enough votes for a minority mandate - or even win a majority.

Now a new scenario has emerged in which the New Democrats and the Liberals together win enough seats to form a New Democrat-led coalition.

New Democrat leader Jack Layton, whose party has socialist roots, said: "We can change the government. We're not just going to oppose Mr Harper, we're going to replace him."

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Polls show the race has tightened between the Conservatives and the New Democrats, something no one predicted just weeks ago.

Ekos, a private polling company, gave the Conservatives 34.6%, the New Democrats 31.4% and the Liberals 20.4%. A series of other polls have reported similar results.

Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto, said of what has been dubbed the "orange wave" of New Democrat support due to the party's colour: "It's a complete shocker."


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