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In March 1998 charismatic Canadian politician Jean Charest abandoned the federal government and the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) to assume the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP). His move into provincial politics was made in an effort to wrest political control of Quebec from the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ), headed by Lucien Bouchard, prior to a referendum on Quebec independence. Although Charest's popularity in Quebec had been expected to propel the QLP to a victory in the November 30 provincial election, his party won only 48 seats in the Quebec National Assembly, compared with 75 seats for the PQ. The QLP gained a slight majority (44%) over the PQ (43%) in the popular vote, however, an outcome that would delay the referendum on independence