Edwin Poots became the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after winning the first leadership race in the party’s history.
Mr. PootsAgriculture Minister for Stormont said it was “a huge honor” to be chosen for the role, after defeating party leader in Westminster, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, by 19 votes to 17.
In his victory speech Mr Poots said he hoped for “a positive relationship across Northern Ireland and with my party colleagues and even with people from other parties”.
He said: “The opportunities for us to make Northern Ireland a great place after these 100 years have passed and we enter a new 100 years are immense.”
The election was called after the former leader Arlene Foster resigned as DUP leader and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in April, following an internal party revolt.
The 36 members of the party’s electoral college, made up of its deputies and members of the Stormont Assembly, were eligible to vote in the race on Friday.
Julian Smith, who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2019-2020, tweeted congratulations to Mr Poots, adding “a tough job to do – but I’m sure he will do well”.
Speaking briefly to the media as she left the party seat after voting, Ms Foster said: “I voted for the person who will move the Democratic Unionist Party forward and I think it is very obvious.”
Mr. Poots will be the designated leader until Ms. Foster officially steps down. His election will now go to the party executive for ratification.
Speaking ahead of the results announcement, Strangford MP Jim Shannon said he supported Sir Jeffrey as the next DUP leader.
“I think Jeffrey has qualities that take him beyond Northern Ireland and the mainland,” he said, adding: “I think these are qualities of a statesman whose party needs. “
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr said his father, the party’s founder, would be “immensely proud” that a Democratic election decides the next leader.
“It is a party that my father founded with the name democracy and it is a democratic decision,” he said.
“Finally, the members, the elected members, decide who their leader is. It is a very important decision and I know he would be extremely proud of it today.”
Arriving at the seat, South Belfast MP Christopher Stalford, who supports Mr Poots, said: “I think it will be a good day, a good day for democracy in the Democratic Unionist Party”.
The campaign for the first leadership contest in the DUP’s 50-year history has been unusual, as the party has barred the two from speaking publicly about their candidacy.
Party officials insisted that the contest should be limited to an internal campaign within the electoral college.
The campaign focused on basic concerns about the internal DUP processes and structures, and the broader political challenges unionism faces, in particular the controversial post-Brexit trade deals, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. , which have created new economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.