OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada has re-elected a minority Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in the first polls in a major economy since the eruption of the worst global financial crisis in decades. Results from Tuesday's vote showed 143 Conservatives elected, a stronger showing than before but still below the 155 House of Commons seats needed to form a majority, following a campaign dominated by the financial meltdown. The Liberals - who dominated Canadian federal politics in the 20th century - were to form the official opposition again, with 76 seats, based on returns from Elections Canada, the national electoral agency. "Today, Canadians have charted the way forward for our country," Harper said in an acceptance speech, as the nation looked ahead to its third consecutive minority government. "We knew the election would give someone a mandate to lead Canada during this period of global economic uncertainty," he said. "The voters have entrusted us with a strengthened mandate to continue to lead the government and take Canada forward." Harper added: "I want to ensure Canadians that working together, we will weather this storm and we will position our economy to emerge stronger than ever before. We have a realistic, prudent and responsible plan." Harper - at the helm of a Conservative minority government since January 2006 which followed a Liberal minority elected in June 2004 - led in the opinion polls at the start of the 37-day electoral campaign. No single issue galvanized voters, however, until world financial markets tumbled in the wake of the US subprime mortgage crisis. Many Canadians lost their savings or their retirement nest eggs, and Harper lost his early 10-point lead. However Liberal leader Stephane Dion failed to capitalize on the question of who was best qualified to lead the nation amid economic uncertainty. Conceding Tuesday as the results came in, Dion said the global economic crisis "is the most important issue facing our country at this time." "We Liberals will do our part responsibly to make sure that this parliament works," he said. "As the official opposition, we will work with the government to make sure that Canadians are protected from the economic storm."