(Reuters) – Alberta’s opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has chosen former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi as its new leader, party officials announced on Saturday.

He will lead the NDP against Premier Danielle Smith’s conservative government in Canada’s main oil-producing province.

Nenshi became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city when he was elected in 2010 and governed Canada’s corporate oil capital until he stepped down in 2021.

During that time he was widely praised for his handling of the 2013 floods that devastated parts of Calgary, but also drew accusations of arrogance from some critics over the years.

Nenshi won the first ballot of the NDP leadership race with an overwhelming 86% of the vote, and said he was looking forward to the next provincial election in 2027.

“The excitement and optimism I’ve felt throughout this leadership race proves that Albertans want a government they can trust and believe in,” Nenshi said in a statement.

The NDP said the 62,700 votes cast for Nenshi were the largest number of votes ever received by a provincial leadership candidate in Canadian history.

(Reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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