Jagmeet Singh was elected leader of Canada’s leftist New Democratic Party (NDP) Sunday, becoming the country’s first non-white leader of a major political party.
Capturing 53.6% of the vote, the 38-year-old Sikh will face off against current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the 2019 federal election, The New York Times reports.
“Thank you, New Democrats. The run for Prime Minister begins now #LoveAndCourage,” Singh tweeted Sunday.
Singh claimed a decisive victory over three other candidates and will replace outgoing leader Thomas Mulcair, who has headed the party since 2012.
Trudeau congratulated Singh on Twitter, writing “I look forward to speaking soon and working together for Canadians.”
Born to Indian immigrants and raised in Ontario, the former criminal defense lawyer is known for his charismatic personality and colorful turbans with great appeal to younger voters. In September, a video from a campaign event — “Jagmeet and Greet” — went viral after a woman interrupted Singh’s speech, accusing him of trying to impose Shariah Law in Canada and being “in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Singh, who is not a Muslim, but Sikh, was praised for his composed response.
“You know growing up as a brown skinned, turbaned, bearded man, I’ve faced things like this before. It’s not a problem, we can deal with it,” he said. “There’s going to be obstacles we’re going to face, and we’re going to face them with what? Love and courage,” he said to the audience.
The NDP is Canada’s third largest party in parliament and Singh was touted as someone who could reinvigorate the party after it lost 59 seats in the 2015 elections.
“To make progress on these issues, to truly make Canadians’ lives better, we owe it to Canadians to form government,” Mr. Singh said in his acceptance speech. “We owe it to them.”