By David Wiwchar
CALGARY, Alta.—Shawn Atleo's supporters went into the second round of voting for the Assembly of First Nations national chief bouyed by a commanding lead. But when the results of the second ballot were read out, his lead had shrunk to just four votes.
Contenders Terry Nelson and Bill Wilson were forced off the ballot after the first vote, and third-place leader John Beaucage decided to bow out; all three put their support behind Perry Bellegarde from Saskatchewan.
When the results of the second ballot were announced, Ahousaht's Shawn Atleo received 276 votes (50.36%) while Bellegarde's support jumped to 272 votes (49.64%).
Both Atleo and Bellegarde are fairly evenly matched on paper; both in their early 40s, and both have led First Nations organizations and private sector businesses.
Atleo has the support of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and British Columbia--the largest contingent at the AFN annual conference.
Bellegarde has the support of the prarie provinces, and the help of the three former contestants for the AFN national chief position.
To win, Atleo or Bellegarde would have to secure 60 percent of the vote, or 332 votes. Both leaders will spend the next two hours chasing "soft supporters" away from the other, and hope to take the third ballot which will be announced at 8 p.m. (Pacific Time).