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Separatist Bouchard Wavers in Pursuit of Quebec Leadership

By Anne Swardson
The Washington Post

In another strange turn in one of the most dramatic weeks in Canada's political history, Quebec separatist Lucien Bouchard said Thursday that his political future - and thus the future of his cause - will be decided in part by a lonely wife and two small boys who miss their father.

Bouchard is the logical choice to inherit leadership of Canada's French-speaking province from Premier Jacques Parizeau, who the day after Quebec voters narrowly voted against separating from Canada on Monday, said he would resign. Bouchard is the leader of Quebec's federal separatist party which, because it holds the second-largest number of seats in the Canadian House of Commons, is also Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

He also is Quebec's most popular and charismatic politician. Dark-browed and deep-voiced, Bouchard, 56, breathed new life into the separatist cause when he took over the flagging referendum campaign early last month and nearly succeeded. Separation was rejected by a margin of just over 1 percent of Quebec's 5 million voters.

But while Bouchard was campaigning, his sons Alexandre, 5, and Simon, 4, were at home in Montreal with his wife, California-born Audrey Best, 35. A tired-looking Bouchard said Thursday in an emotional meeting with reporters that he faced "strong personal pressure to go back to private life."

"You know young children of 5 and 4, they don't understand what we are doing. They learn the word referendum and they hate it. They spit when they pronounce it," Bouchard said.

In a brief interview later in the day, Bouchard said he regretted missing Halloween with his sons, who trick-or-treated as a clown and a skeleton.

"Both of them are very mad at me," he said. "They say, You don't have a job, you just argue on television.' You cannot have a normal family life in politics."