LONDON — The weakened U.K. Independence Party on Friday announced that former Army officer Henry Bolton will be its fourth leader in just over one year.
Anne Marie Waters, an openly anti-Islam candidate who had divided the party, finished second in the leadership contest. She leads a group called Sharia Watch UK that characterizes the spread of Islam as a threat to Britain.
Waters’ defeat indicates the party is likely to keep its focus on Brexit instead of expanding it to include Islam.
Bolton said after his unexpected victory that securing Britain’s rapid exit from the European Union is the party’s “core task.” He said Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative-led government had so far failed to deliver on the Brexit mandate that voters wanted.
Britain and the European Union are currently negotiating the terms of Britain’s departure. The slow pace of the exit talks has frustrated UKIP supporters, who want an immediate break with the EU.
“We want the right to self-determination,” Bolton said, calling for an end to decisions affecting Britain being made in a foreign capital. EU headquarters are in Brussels.
Bolton is expected to give his first major speech at a party conference on Saturday in Torquay, an English coastal town 215 miles (345 kilometers) southwest of London.
UKIP has struggled since achieving its aim of winning public support for a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.
It scored less than 2 percent of the votes in Britain’s June election — down from more than 12 percent in the election two years earlier — and holds no seats in the British Parliament despite having some representation in the European Parliament.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who led the party’s successful Brexit campaign, had warned UKIP would be “finished” if it embraced an anti-Islam platform.
This version has been corrected to show that UKIP earned 12 percent of the vote two years ago, not last year.