Duceppe, Marois will run for the PQ's top spot

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and former provincial cabinet minister Pauline Marois will run for the Parti Québécois leadership.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and former provincial cabinet minister Pauline Marois will run for the Parti Québécois leadership.

The two political heavyweights confirmed their intentions within minutes of each other Friday.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, shown in the House of Commons on Wednesday, will face at least one opponent, Pauline Marois, in a bid for the PQ leadership. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Duceppe, 59, issued a statement in which he said he made his decision after consulting with his family and sovereigntists in both the Bloc and the PQ.

"I think it's time to end the suspense," he wrote, putting an end to three days of feverish speculation about his political future, after PQ Leader André Boisclair resigned Tuesday.

He faces formidable opposition from former PQ cabinet minister Marois, who is ready to launch her third bid for the sovereignty movement's top job.

Marois, whosaidshe made her final decision to run on Friday morning,told reporters in Montrealshe hopesher third tryis a charm.

"I'm doing this to win," she said.

"I hope we will be able to reconnect with the population of Quebec, because we had an important problem on March 26 [the Quebec election].

PQ MNA Pauline Marois gestures as she announces her resignation from politics in March 2006. ((Clément Allard/Canadian Press))

Marois, 58, resigned from politics in 2006 after losing her second leadership race in a drawn-out battle with Boisclair that lasted most of 2005.

A PQ member for more than 30 years,she is intimately linked to the party's history.Marois worked as a press attaché for then finance minister Jacques Parizeau in the 1970s before being elected as a member of the national assembly in 1981.

She made her first run for the leadership in 1985 after René Lévesque resigned. Marois was then defeated in the 1985 election, and re-elected in1989, 1994, 1998 and 2003.

She held the province's most important portfolios, including finance, health and education while thePQ was in power in the1990s.

Leadership race will be symbolic

Already members of the PQ caucus arechoosing sides in what will be a hotly contested leadership race.

Newly-elected Bernard Drainville is backing Marois, whom he calls a competent, experienced and open-minded politician. She has "never been the kind of woman to say, 'I'm the one who holds the truth,'" he told CBC.

Symbolism will play an important role in the PQ race, say Quebec political observers.

"Watch for the Ségolène Royal factor," said Michel C. Auger, a political columnist with Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil. "The idea of the first female leader in Quebec, the first woman premier if she got elected."

Duceppe and Maroishold similar centre-left ideological views, despite their separatepaths in the sovereignty movement.

"They aren't so different,"Auger said."Both of them know you can't go around promising a referendum right after an election."

"Both of them are not the pur et dur [hard-liners]" who drive the PQ's referendum ambitions, he added.

The referendum question dogged Boisclair throughout his 18-month stint as leader. He irritated grassroots supporters who did not like his moderate approach to an eventual referendum and independence.

After the PQ was flattened in the March 2007 election, winning only 36 of Quebec's 125 seats, Boisclair was chastised by party memberswhen he said he thought it was time to shelve the goal of a referendum for a while.

He finally stepped down May 8after being hounded for weeks by the party's grassroots members, who blamed him forthe PQ's poor performance in the last election.