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Jagmeet Singh, an Ontario provincial lawmaker and practising Sikh, was elected on Sunday as leader of Canada’s left-leaning New Democrats, becoming the first non-white politician to head a major Canadian political party.

The 38-year-old lawyer, whose penchant for colourful turbans and tailor-made three-piece suits made him a social media star, was elected on the first ballot to lead the New Democratic Party into the 2019 federal election against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Thank you, New Democrats. The run for Prime Minister begins now,” Singh tweeted.

Jagmeet Singh secured 54 per cent of the vote, defeating three rivals to become the new head of the NDP, succeeding Thomas Mulcair. The results of the vote, conducted online and by mail, were announced at a party meeting in Toronto.

The Toronto-area politician, who led in fundraising since joining the race last May, had been touted by supporters as someone who could bring new life to the party, which has struggled since the death of charismatic former leader Jack Layton in 2011.

Singh’s profile was boosted in early September after a video went viral showing him calmly responding with words of love to a heckler who interrupted a campaign event to accuse him of wanting to impose sharia law in Canada. Sharia, an Islamic concept, has nothing to do with Singh’s Sikh religion.

“His skill, in being able to diffuse the situation, it understandably appealed to a lot of people who ended up supporting him,” said Christopher Cochrane, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

Cochrane added that Singh’s ability to connect both with young people and ethnic minorities would make him a “force to reckon with” when competing against Trudeau in 2019.

Trudeau congratulated his new political rival on Twitter on Sunday, saying: “I look forward to speaking soon and working together for Canadians.”

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