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Quebec: 'Lady of concrete' becomes first female premier (+video)

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois' election ends the rule of the Liberals who had been in power in Canada's French-speaking province for almost a decade. Marois promises to focus on Quebec's economy.

Voters in Quebec went to the polls Tuesday in provincial elections expected to bring separatists to power, amid rising frustration with the current leadership and months of student protests over a planned tuition hike.
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Quebec separatist leader Pauline Marois, a veteran politician dubbed the "Lady of concrete" for her strong will, made history on Tuesday when she became the first female premier of the French-speaking Canadian province.

Preliminary results show her opposition Parti Quebecois (PQ) had won at least a minority government after defeating the ruling Liberals, who had been in power for more than nine years.

Such success for Marois seemed highly unlikely in June 2011, when half a dozen leading PQ legislators quit in protest, complaining she would never be able to lead Quebec to independence from Canada.

But Marois, 63, who first won a seat for the PQ in 1981 and served in more than a dozen cabinet posts, stared down the rebels. Now she is premier and must lead the debt-laden province while ensuring she maintains the support of PQ hardliners who want an independence referendum as soon as possible.

"Few people have as good a knowledge of how the Quebec government works as Pauline Marois. ... She is actually quite good at making bureaucrats do what they're supposed to do," said University of Montreal politics professor Pierre Martin.

"One can expect a government that will run relatively efficiently," he told Reuters.

Marois is promising to focus on the economy and says a PQ government will be a good manager of the public finances.

"There will be a lot of changes, but done in an orderly fashion," she told supporters on Monday.

After winning her seat in 1981, Marois went straight into the cabinet, less than two weeks after giving birth to her third child. Her many cabinet posts have included a stint as finance minister.

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