OTTAWA - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first major world leader to face voters since the global financial meltdown, led his Conservative Party to victory in Tuesday's election but was forecast to fall short of a majority in Parliament.
The election agency reported on its website that the Conservatives had won or was leading in races for 143 of Parliament's 308 seats, an improvement over the 127 seats the party had in the previous Parliament.
But after obtaining results from election officials, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. predicted that the Conservative Party would not win the 155 seats needed to govern on its own. That would force it to again rely on opposition support to pass budgets and legislation -- as it has had to since a 2006 election victory.
Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion conceded to Harper early today.
"I have talked to Prime Minister Harper to offer him congratulations and my full cooperation in these difficult economic times," Dion said.
Harper had called elections early in hopes of getting his party a majority, but the Conservatives sought to put a good face on the results, pointing to their increased number of seats.
"Every other incumbent government in the Western world is in serious political trouble with the economic situation," Conservative legislator Jason Kenney said. "Ours is probably the only one that could be re-elected -- let alone with an increased mandate."
The Liberal Party, long Canada's top party, suffered a severe drubbing, dropping about two dozen seats from 95 in the previous Parliament, according to the election agency. Bloc Quebecois led for about 50 seats, the New Democrats just under 40 and independent candidates 2.
Election figures gave the Conservatives about 37 percent of the total vote, the Liberals 27 percent, Bloc Quebecois 10 percent, New Democrats 18 percent and others 8 percent.
The party winning the most seats generally forms the government, with its leader becoming prime minister. The opposition parties could unite and topple Harper if they won enough seats for a majority, but analysts said that was unlikely because the parties have no tradition of forming such coalitions.
The opposition Liberals have typically been the party in power, forming the government for most of Canada's 141 years. But the left-of-center vote was divided among four parties, giving an edge to the Conservatives.
Dion's campaign was hindered by his unpopular plan to tax all fossil fuels except gasoline and by perceptions he is a weak leader. A former professor from French-speaking Quebec, Dion also suffered in other regions because he frequently mangles English grammar and his accent makes him hard to understand.