Official opposition crowns new leader

TORONTO (CUP) — Thomas Mulcair has been voted into the position of leader for the federal New Democratic Party.

Members of the party voted over the course of a two-day convention in downtown Toronto, March 23–24. The winner emerged from an initial seven candidates that were cut down over the two days.

Mulcair received 57.22 per cent of the final ballot, with former NDP president Brian Topp coming in second with 42.78 per cent. In the end, four rounds of voting were needed to reach the announcement of Mulcair as winner. After lengthy delays in the voting process, Mulcair took to the podium to present his victory speech about 12 hours after results of the advance votes were announced.

“The challenge that faces us is not a failure of ability or talent; it’s a failure of leadership,” said Mulcair in his victory speech. The crowd, which hit a peak of about 4,600 people Saturday, gave Mulcair a standing ovation as he took the podium and remained standing throughout his speech.

During his comments, Mulcair, a Montreal MP, highlighted a need for the public to be considered as much as part of the NDP’s central agenda as what goes on within Parliament.

“We will unite progressives, unite our country and together we will work towards a more just and better world,” said Mulcair in the final speech of the night, which also referenced a decline in youth voter turnout in recent federal elections.

“It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they don’t trust that their vote will make a difference,” he said in regard to youth voters.

Saturday’s result came after a day of lengthy delays. Lines of NDP members at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre faced waits before casting a vote, while the NDP’s specialized vote website suffered a slowdown because of an apparent high volume of traffic, as well as a reported cyber-attack.

Lines at the convention centre stood still for such long periods of time that those successful in casting a vote drew cheers from the waiting lines.

Leadership candidates dropped out of the three voting rounds, with the first round beginning Friday night. Current MPs Paul Dewar, Peggy Nash and Niki Ashton, and Nova Scotia candidate Martin Singh, had exited the leadership race by the end of the second round. After stepping down, Singh passed his support to Mulcair, while Dewar and Nash stayed neutral.

British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen was knocked out of the final ballot after coming in last in the third round of voting. He remained neutral after releasing his supporters.

It was during that third round that technical problems escalated.

Stagnant lines developed in the convention hall as the lagging vote website slowed the process. People also had trouble being able to cast a vote online.
An alleged attack on the voting website by an outside party was suggested to have been the cause of the delays.

The technical difficulties led to complaints over social media from those waiting to vote in-person and online.

The NDP resorted to staggering voters casting a ballot in person and those voting online, to keep visitor traffic at a slower, steadier rate. The fourth round of voting was also extended by an extra hour, in order to enable online voters to vote.

“Still can’t vote on the web: ‘Sorry, The site is temporary unavailable. Please try again later,’” tweeted user Tod Maffin.

“Been trying to vote since 7:04 p.m. No Luck. Will there be a time extension in the name of #democracy?” said Kathleen Mathurin over Twitter almost an hour after the tweet was posted.

Social media was a large aspect of the two-day conference, as Mulcair’s campaign team was trying throughout Saturday to trend on Twitter and hosted meetings of social media users to boost their online profile.

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