MONTREAL - Premier Jean Charest isn't ready to sound the death knell for the Action democratique du Quebec despite its dismal performance in a byelection in its former stronghold of Riviere-du-Loup.
"I'm not predicting the disappearance of the ADQ," Charest said Tuesday, a day after the party pulled in less than 15 per cent of the vote in the riding and finished a distant third.
"I don't belong to the school of thought that predicts the disappearance of political parties. The ADQ has had highs and lows. Quebecers have voted for the ADQ and that choice must be respected."
Riviere-du-Loup had belonged to the ADQ since 1994 when leader Mario Dumont began his string of five consecutive election victories in the riding northeast of Quebec City.
Dumont stepped down on March 6 and is now pursuing a career as a talk show host on a French-language TV network.
But one political analyst isn't ringing in a bright future for the ADQ which until Feb. 24 was officially listed as "le Parti Action democratique du Quebec/Equipe Mario Dumont" to capitalize on its well-known leader.
The Universite de Montreal's Pierre Martin suggests it could have been worse for the ADQ on Monday, calling the right-leaning party's low showing "some sort of residual sympathy vote" for Dumont.
"Essentially, it's one more demonstration that the party owes a great deal, if not most of its support, to its charismatic leader," Martin said in an interview Tuesday.
"It seems like in Riviere-du-Loup, a very small proportion of its support was due to its ideas."
Martin said the byelection result is a signal the party has a major struggle ahead to regain any popular support.
Martin says it would take "a groundswell of dissatisfaction (with the Liberals) driven by populism on the right, and the total collapse of the Parti Quebecois" to revive the ADQ.
"The ADQ is just not going to be a contender for power unless something wildly unexpected comes about."
The party won just seven of the province's 125 ridings in the last election in December and saw its representation in the national assembly reduced to six with Dumont's departure.
The ADQ will elect a successor to Dumont on Oct. 18, a vote brought forward from the original date of February 2010.
Four candidates are in the running, including Gilles Taillon, Dumont's former second-in-command and the presumed front-runner.
The other contenders are Eric Caire, a member of the national assembly, former member Christian Levesque and Jean-Francois Plante, an ex-Montreal city councillor.