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UCP leadership vote underway

Last Updated Oct 27, 2017 at 11:59 am MST

Twitter, 660's Ian Campbell, @news_ian

The final phase in the merger between the Wildrose and PC party is underway.

Voting began Thursday between Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, and Brian Jean to pick a leader, but a big road bump could derail the whole process.

Schweitzer and Jean have asked the party to suspend voting over issues with members obtaining their pin numbers.

The concern is that it’s too easy for people to forge identities and get someone else’s pin for online voting.

So far, the party has not responded to the request.

If it does go ahead as planned, the winner should be announced late Saturday afternoon.

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said Kenney appears to be in the lead, but added it could get interesting if he doesn’t win on the first ballot.

“Then the lowest candidate will be removed from the race and their votes will be recounted for their second choices,” she said. “So if that’s Doug Schweitzer as the polls indicate it’s going to be, the question then becomes where will Schweitzer’s second choices go?”

Still, Williams said Jean’s rural support can’t be discounted.

“In province-wide polls as we know, Brian Jean is well ahead in terms of popularity, well ahead of Jason Kenney but the entire province isn’t being consulted in this race it’s only members of the party, people that have been members and have registered to vote,” she said.

University of Calgary political scientist David Stewart pointed out when it comes to organization, the pendulum swings back in Kenney’s favour because he’s added a lot of members since Jean was the leader of the Wildrose.

“There was only 9,000 voters and now there are six times that amount, so it’s a massive increase in scale,” he said, adding these kinds of elections tend to place a premium on organization over popularity.

But whether it’s because of the municipal election, or another reason for a lack of interest, Stewart noted membership is low.

“They may actually end up with a smaller vote in the race than say the Progressive Conservatives had on the first ballot in 2011 when Allison Redford won,” he said.

He added the vote could be affected by progressive conservatives who decide to sit this one out, still bitter because they didn’t want to see their party disappear.

In fact, Stewart went so far as to suggest they may leave the party if the more moderate candidate Schweitzer loses and one of the more social conservative candidates wins.