The election for the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations went into deadlock last night with a single vote separating the two remaining candidates.
After three ballots, Shawn Atleo was leading over Perry Bellegarde as both vied for support from chiefs from across the nation at the 30th AFN conference being held in Calgary.
“I’m going to listen to my elders,” said Bellegarde after the third vote. “I’m going to stay.”
Atleo said he is excited and that the vote shouldn’t reflect that the AFN is divided.
A 60 per cent majority is needed to achieve the leadership according to the AFN charter.
After the first ballot, in which Atleo led with 43 per cent of the vote followed by Bellegarde with 29 per cent, the other three candidates, John Beaucage, Terrance Nelson and Bill Wilson all withdrew and threw their support behind Bellegarde.
The second vote also ended in a deadlock.
Chief Charles Weasel Head said before the third ballot that he would be surprised if a clearer gap emerged.
Weasel Head said that the caucusing among the provinces during the time between the ballots is very important.
This includes trying to make deals to sway the different chiefs over to the other side.
Karyn Pugliese with the AFN said the vote could go on for a while and there will be no national chief until someone withdraws or the 60 per cent majority is achieved.
“They are going to have to try and work something out,” said Pugliese.
Pugliese said what might start to happen is that chiefs stop voting. This was seen between the second and third votes as 17 less ballots were cast.
Atleo is the British Columbia regional chief with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
Bellegarde is currently a councillor for the Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan.