Canadians returned Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power Monday in hotly contested elections against a rookie conservative leader, but he failed to gain an absolute majority, according to projections by television networks.

The Liberals were on track to win the most seats of any party. The 49-year-old Trudeau channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election in 2015 and now appeared to have led his party to the top finish in two elections since.

The Liberals were leading in 156 ridings, the Conservatives in 123, the Quebec-based Bloc Québécois in 29, the leftist New Democratic Party in 28 and the Greens in two.

Trudeau didn’t win enough seats to avoid having to rely on help from other parties to pass legislation. Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that wasn’t under threat of being toppled.

The opposition was relentless in accusing Trudeau of calling an unnecessary early vote — two years before the deadline — for his own personal ambition.

Trudeau bet Canadians didn’t want a Conservative government during a pandemic. Canada is now among the most fully vaccinated countries in the world and Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns and he argued that the Conservatives’ approach, which has been skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and says Canadians need a government that follows science.