London elects Sadiq Khan, first Muslim mayor

Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London after a campaign dominated by issues of religion and ethnicity

LONDON (UK)  — Sadiq Khan, a Labour Party leader, a former human rights lawyer and a son of a bus driver from Pakistan, was declared the winner after a protracted count that extended into Saturday. He will be the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital.

The victory also makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West.

Labour Party candidate Khan received more than 1.3 million votes — 57 percent of the total — to Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith’s 43 percent, after voters’ first and second preferences were allocated.

Turnout was a relatively high 45.6 percent, up from 38 percent in 2012.

Khan’s victory seemed certain for hours from partial results, but the official announcement came past midnight — more than 24 hours after polls closed — after delays due to what officials called “small discrepancies” in the count.

Khan was elected to replace Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson after a campaign marked — and many said marred — by U.S.-style negative campaigning. Goldsmith, a wealthy environmentalist, called Khan divisive and accused him of sharing platforms with Islamic extremists — a charge repeated by Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior Conservatives.

At the swearing in ceremony in Southwark Cathedral, Mr Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants who was brought up on a council estate, said that as a child he “never dreamt” he would one day become the mayor of the capital.

“I’m only here today because of the opportunities and helping hand that our city gave to me and my family.

“My burning ambition for our city, that will guide my mayoralty, is to ensure that all Londoners get the opportunities that my city gave to me,” he said.

“I promise you I will always do everything in my power to make our city better. I will be a mayor for all Londoners,” he added.

He also pledged to lead “the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen”.

London is hardly representative of Britain: About a quarter of its residents are foreign-born, and one-eighth are Muslim. And Mr. Khan is not the first Muslim to hold prominent office in Europe: Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Muslim mayor since 2009, and Sajid Javid is the British secretary of state for business.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khan, 45, won a striking victory after a campaign dominated by anxieties over religion and ethnicity. Britain has not sustained a large-scale terrorist attack since 2005, and its Muslim population, in contrast to France, is considered well integrated. But an estimated 800 people have left Britain to fight for or support the Islamic State. Dozens of assaults on British Muslims were reported after the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

Who is Sadiq Khan?

The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, did not have a privileged start in life. He was one of eight children born to Pakistani immigrants, a bus driver and a seamstress, on a south London housing estate.

From an early age, he showed a firm resolve to defy the odds in order to win success for himself and the causes important to him.

That resolve has won him the biggest personal mandate in the UK, a job with wide-ranging powers over London and with enormous emotional significance for him.

Sadiq Khan’s life to date has been characterised by beating the odds – which is what he has just done to become mayor of London.

He insists he is there to represent all Londoners and to tackle inequality in the capital, and now he has the chance to prove it.

Age: 45

Marital status: Married with two daughters

Political party: Labour

Time as MP: Has represented Tooting in south London since 2005

Previous jobs: Human rights solicitor, chair of Liberty

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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