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Woman set to assume Canada's top post

Defense Minister Kim Campbell made history Sunday as she became Canada's first woman prime minister.

Progressive Conservatives voted to decide who would succeed the retiring Brian Mulroney. The choice was between Campbell and Environment Minister Jean Charest, who at 34 would have been the country's youngest prime minister.

Campbell, 46, won on the second ballot, receiving 1,817 votes to 1,630 for Charest. She becomes Canada's interim prime minister, though no date has been set for the transfer of power.

She will lead the party into the next national election. It must be held before the end of the year.

Campbell received 1,664 votes on the first ballot, 48 percent, and just 71 short of the total needed for victory. Charest got 39 percent. Three other candidates split the remaining votes.

To win, a candidate needed 50 percent of the vote, plus one more.

In final speeches Saturday night before the election, Campbell had stressed the need for a new type of government _ a new style of politics more in touch with the populace _ and her glitzy speech was a performance that included lasers and bursts of confetti. Her other priorities include job creation and fighting crime.

In her victory speech, Campbell urged the party to unite to win the "real prize" _ a third consecutive majority government. She said the big challenge would be to win "the trust and confidence of Canadians and earn their support."

Analysts said the fluently bilingual Charest delivered the best speeches throughout the campaign and had addressed questions about his youthfulness. "Yes, I am young and vigorous, but so is Canada," he said Saturday night, adding that he represented the best chance for the Conservatives to be re-elected to a third term.

Charest, a lawyer from Sherbrooke, Quebec, near the Maine border, said he could best represent Canada's two founding cultures _ English and French.

While both front-runners had said they'd work to eliminate the federal budget deficit, Charest had vowed to restore minority rights to English-speaking residents of mainly French Quebec.

Giving the voting delegates something to think about was a Gallup poll Saturday showing the Conservatives, with Charest as leader, would defeat the Liberals in the next election.

The result with Campbell would be an "electoral disaster" with the Liberals the winner, the poll said. Campbell dismissed the results, urging the convention delegates to "trust their instincts."

Although three months ago Campbell had been dubbed the prime-minister-in-waiting, she admitted some of her comments hurt her campaign. Especially damaging were remarks about the "evil demons of the papacy" and calling politically unconcerned Canadians "condescending SOBs."

Campbell, a lawyer from British Columbia, gained international media attention as the Madonna of Canadian politics after publication of a bare-shouldered photo of her holding a judicial robe.

Her personal life drew some complaints: She has no children and blames the demands of her career for two failed marriages.

Charest, who is married and has three children, had liabilities of youthfulness and being from Quebec, as Canadians might not elect another French-Canadian prime minister.

When the race began, Campbell was regarded the ideal candidate _ presenting a new image from a younger generation and a different gender _ as the Conservatives tried to distance themselves from the unpopular Mulroney.

But the campaign showed Campbell to be perceived as "elitist and somewhat inflexible," similar to Mulroney, while Charest appeared "genuine and sincere while avoiding mistakes," said Terry Downey, a University of Waterloo political scientist.

Mulroney, who said goodbye Saturday to the party he has led for 10 years, said he had done what is right for Canada.

"I have made mistakes _ there is no school you can attend to be a prime minister," he said.

He did not indicate his choice of a successor.

Mulroney, who had governed since 1984, announced his resignation in February after polls showed he was the most unpopular prime minister in Canadian history.