Scottish Labour Party elects new leader

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Scotland's opposition Labour Party elected Johann Lamont as its new leader on Saturday, with a 28-year-old lawmaker of Pakistani ethnic origin voted in as her deputy.

Lamont, 54, the party's deputy leader in Scotland, beat off two other candidates to win with 51.8 percent of the vote.

Anas Sarwar was elected as her deputy. The former dentist is the son of Pakistan-born Mohammad Sarwar, a former MP for Glasgow, who was Britain's first-ever Muslim lawmaker. Anas Sarwar holds his father's former seat.

In May's elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament, Labour was expecting a fightback but lost further ground to the pro-independence Scottish National Party, which won an outright majority for the first time.

An opinion poll earlier this month put Labour on 26 percent in Scotland, with the SNP of First Minister Alex Salmond on 51 percent.

Lamont challenged Salmond to get on with calling a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, currently set for the second half of the Scottish Parliament's five-year term.

"The Labour Party in Scotland is committed to standing strong inside the United Kingdom and to campaign for that, so that will be a central part of my job," Lamont said.

"I don't believe that we are oppressed by the English and require to be liberated by Alex Salmond."

Sarwar said it was a "tremendous honour and privilege" to become the new deputy leader.

© 2011 AFP

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