Canada’s New Democrats elect Jagmeet Singh as party leader

Canada’s federal New Democrats have picked Sikh politician Jagmeet Singh to lead their party into the next general election.

Mr Singh, 38, will be the first ethnic minority to lead a major federal party in the country.

He won a decisive first-ballot victory over three other candidates in the left-wing party’s leadership race.

The politician now has the difficult task of rebuilding the party that lost 59 seats in the 2015 election.

Mr Singh got 53.6% of the vote in Sunday’s leadership contest – well ahead of his rivals.

“This race has renewed excitement in our party,” Mr Singh said, calling the win an “incredibly profound honour”.

Mr Singh got a profile boost late in the race when a video of his reaction to an angry heckler at a campaign rally went viral.

The New Democratic Party is currently the third place party in Canada’s Parliament, with 44 of 338 seats. The left-of-centre party has never held power.

In the 2011 general election it made historic gains and were catapulted into Official Opposition, only to lose almost a million votes – mostly to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – four years later.

The provincial politician said on Sunday he would focus on issues of climate change, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and electoral reform.

Mr Singh, a former criminal defence lawyer, has also received attention for his sharp style, including a profile in GQ.

Earlier this year, he explained to the American magazine how his personal style, which includes brightly coloured turbans and well-cut suits, became part of his political brand.

“So throughout my life, I realised that people would stare at me because I stood out,” he said.

“Some may feel awkward about that… I felt that if people are going to stare at me, I might as well give them something to look at.”

The federal New Democrats began the leadership search after party faithful ousted leader Tom Mulcair in April 2016.

Canada’s next federal election is scheduled for 2019.

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