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Canada  

Singh takes NDP leadership

The New Democrats have tapped Ontario politician Jagmeet Singh to take over for Tom Mulcair and lead the embattled party into the next federal election.

Singh romped to a first-ballot win with 35,266 votes, easily outstripping his three rivals: northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Quebec MP Guy Caron.

Angus came in second with 12,705 votes, followed by Ashton with 11,374 and Caron with 6,164.

With its long-haul leadership race now over, the party — which has just 44 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons — is now free to focus on presenting a unified front to battle Justin Trudeau's Liberals in the 2019 federal election.

Insiders and political observers alike say it's high time the NDP regrouped, put the disappointment of the 2015 election result in the past and start laying the foundation for a strong showing in two years.

More than 124,000 card-carrying members were eligible to take part in the vote, which was conducted online and by mail by way of a ranked ballot — voters were able to rank the candidates in order of preference.

Kathleen Monk, an NDP stalwart who worked as director of strategic communications to former leader Jack Layton, said a new leader will now allow the party to begin growing again after two years in the political wilderness.

Tom Mulcair, who took over the party after Layton's death in 2012, carried on his shoulders the party's long-standing dream of forming a federal government for the first time.

Those hopes were dashed during the 2015 election campaign when the party's support collapsed in the face of Justin Trudeau's Liberal juggernaut — an electoral disaster many blamed on Mulcair himself.

Even after party members voted resoundingly to turf their leader during a spring convention in Edmonton, Mulcair chose to remain on an interim basis until a successor could be named. Following that convention, the party opted to take the long road towards choosing a new leader, culminating in Sunday's first round of voting results.

"The reason I was able, with eyes wide open, to stay on after Edmonton is my profound belief that the NDP offers the only real hope for a progressive government in Canada," Mulcair said in an interview.

The two front-runners brought diametrically opposed perspectives to the race: Angus the elder statesman, with years of House of Commons experience and name recognition among party members, versus Singh the outsider, a member of the Ontario legislature with a youthful, more suburban following.

Former NDP national director Karl Belanger admitted it is "long overdue" for the NDP to get on with building towards 2019.

"Hopefully that is what is going to happen," he said. "I think there's lots of people who are still reeling and debating the reasons behind the defeat in 2015."

It's also high time the party got serious about fundraising: Elections Canada returns show the NDP has some $5.5 million worth of debt on its balance sheet.



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