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Coalition Avenir Quebec cruises to byelection win in former Liberal leader's riding

QUEBEC — The governing Coalition Avenir Quebec has passed its first electoral test since winning the Oct. 1 provincial vote, easily capturing the riding of Roberval left vacant by former Liberal premier Philippe Couillard.

With three-quarters of the votes counted in a byelection Monday, Coalition candidate Nancy Guillemette, director of a local mental-health organization, was well ahead with more than 50 per cent of the total.

Premier Francois Legault joined Guillemette on stage to celebrate the win. On Twitter he wrote, “Thanks to this victory, we now have 75 elected members. Not bad for a new party!”

Couillard had won the riding in Quebec’s Lac-Saint-Jean region by a wide margin Oct. 1, taking 42 per cent of the votes compared with 24 per cent for the second-place Coalition candidate, Denise Trudel.

The seat has been empty since Couillard quit politics days after his party’s crushing loss.

With the win, the Coalition Avenir Quebec, founded by Legault in 2011, has 75 seats in the 125-seat legislature. It is followed by the Liberals at 29 and the Parti Quebecois and Quebec solidaire at 10 each. There is one Independent member.

Parti Quebecois candidate Thomas Gaudreault was in second place Monday with about 18 per cent of the votes, and Liberal William Laroche had 15 per cent. Quebec solidaire candidate Luc-Antoine Cauchon was fourth with about 12 per cent, and three other candidates split the remainder.

Just over a third of eligible voters cast a ballot, according to preliminary figures from Elections Quebec.

The Canadian Press