Canada's latest election campaign kicked off Saturday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging voters to give his Conservatives an outright majority to stave off a "reckless" left-of-center coalition government that would pose a danger to the economy.
The main opposition Liberal party ruled out forming any such coalition government, but Harper angrily accused Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff of trying to seize power illegitimately.
Opposition parties brought down Harper's government in a no confidence vote Friday over ethics issues, triggering an election that polls show the Conservatives will win but without a parliamentary majority. That means Harper again will lead a minority government, dependent on opposition votes to stay in office.
The May 2 vote will be Canada's fourth national election in seven years, reflecting the failure of either major party to obtain a parliamentary majority. The three opposition parties combined held 160 seats in the outgoing Parliament, while the Conservatives held 143.
There has been talk that the left-of-center parties might join forces in a coalition if Harper wins another minority government.
But Ignatieff emphasized on the campaign's opening day that the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the election should be asked to form the government. He said that if the Liberals lead in seats but lack a majority he would not try to form a coalition with the leftist New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
Leslie Church, a spokeswoman for Ignatieff, later elaborated in an e-mail to the Associated Press that the Liberals also would not try to form a left-of-center coalition if Harper's Conservatives win the most seats but not a majority.
"Coalition is off the table," Church said.
But Harper said the Liberals can't be trusted to keep their word and warned that a "reckless opposition coalition" would pose a danger to the economy.
"Their record is clear," he said. "Deny it in an election, then do it afterward. Let me be perfectly clear: unless Canadians elect a stable national majority government, Michael Ignatieff will form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois.
"Imagine a coalition of arch-centralists and Quebec sovereigntists trying to work together. The only thing they'll be able to agree on is to spend more money and to raise taxes to pay for it."