MONTREAL -- Hardline sovereigntist Mario Beaulieu has been chosen as the new leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

The former head of the nationalist Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste beat out only one other candidate, Bloc MP Andre Bellavance, for the job.

Beaulieu has a difficult task ahead as he tries to rebuild the federal party devoted to Quebec nationalism.

The Bloc was reduced to just four seats in the Commons in the 2011 election from the 49 it held after the 2008 vote.

Bellavance had the support of the other three Bloc MPs but Beaulieu campaigned on a promise to make sovereignty a priority above all else.

The previous Bloc leader, Daniel Paille, resigned last December for health reasons.

Some 19,000 party members were eligible to vote and 58.5 per cent of them cast a ballot in the leadership race.