The election of Amir Khadir in the Mercier downtown district of Montreal did not come about as a surprise nor as a gift. The victory comes after three previous attempts since the late 1990s.
Indeed Mercier is a ‘natural' place for the left since it integrates very popular neighborhoods with middle classes mixed between various nationalities and ethnicities. It's also a site of historical struggles around housing, community rights, feminist and trade union struggles, that is, when they were factories (they are all gone now).
Back in the 1970s by the way, one of the most progressive PQ leader and poet, Gerald Godin, was elected right there after defeating no one else than the Liberal Prime Minister of the time, Robert Bourassa. Later, Mercier was also the incubator of left-oriented urban politics with the RCM who ran against the local establishment. Last but not least, Mercier was the stronghold of the radical left, also in the 1970s, who organized several ?comités d'action politique? that rock the boat in social movements.
By the way, Mercier is adjacent from the Parc Extension area where Fred Rose became the one and only Communist to be elected in the House of commons, back in 1948
Amir becomes the first (and only) member of the National Assembly for Québec solidaire. His co-spokesperson, Fran?oise David, the former President of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, came second in another popular neighborhood, with over 30% of the popular vote.
All in all, QS has almost doubled its vote since the last general election (2003), leaving far behind the Green Party. For sure with a voice in the Assembly, it will be able to speak louder. During this electoral campaign, QS was cut out form mainstream media except for the few odd interviews.
For the last year, QS has concentrated on two dimensions, its program first and its local organization second. The program is left-Keynesian, calling for a strong public sector, the nationalization of a few selected sectors, higher social standards, and additional political demands like the change of the electoral system and the convening of a national constituent assembly that would propose a process leading to sovereignty. The organizational part was first to recruit about 5000 members and then to set up strong structures in Mercier and a few other districts where the possibility of winning was real.
Since its inception, QS has tried to reconcile itself as a political party intervening on the political scene with the necessity to battle with the people. Initially, the priority was the latter: the majority saw the first challenge as becoming ‘institutional' to a certain extent, and not competing against the dynamic social movements.
Now I suppose the trend will be more balanced. Having a political vehicle to intervene in the public political debates in necessary, but certainly not sufficient. QS cannot be a substitute to social movements, but it can be part and parcel of the ‘war of position' that is to be conducted in the Parliament and in the streets.
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