MONTREAL - Pauline Marois's Parti Quebecois has been knocked out of office just 18 months after coming to power.
The loss will force the pro-independence party to do some soul searching as it faces the grim reality that its dream of an sovereign Quebec is now politically toxic.
The defeat also means the PQ has headed a Quebec government for only about a year and a half out of the last decade.
Entering the campaign, opinion polls had suggested the minority PQ government was within striking distance of securing a majority mandate.
But that support began to slide after Marois's superstar candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau raised his fist in the air and vowed to make Quebec a country — an idea most Quebecers oppose.
Marois followed up the Quebecor majority owner's proclamation by musing for days about how a sovereign Quebec would operate.
For the rest of the campaign, the PQ struggled to gain traction with its controversial-yet-popular secularism charter.
Marois became Quebec's first female premier September 2012 when she defeated Jean Charest's Liberal government.
PQ supporters gathered at Marois's campaign headquarters in Montreal fell silent after media outlets began predicting a convincing Liberal win.
And they booed loudly when a TV screen showed an image of Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard and announced he had defeated a PQ incumbent.