Unknown former police officer Henry Bolton is Ukip’s new leader, beating anti-Islam activists Anne Marie Waters into second place.
The former soldier is Ukip’s third elected leader in the space of 12 months, and secured victory with 3,874 votes - 29.9% of all cast.
Bolton’s victory will help steer off a split in the party which would have been caused by Waters’ victory.
The controversial activist, who has described Islam as “evil” and called for an end to immigration from Muslim countries, finished second, with 2,755 votes.
Ukip’s 20 MEPs, including former leader Nigel Farage, were set to hold a crunch meeting in Strasbourg on Tuesday to coordinate their resignations should Waters have become leader.
But the election of Bolton, who had the tacit backing of Farage during contest, will be seen as a unifying moment after a tumultuous 15 months since the EU referendum.
Bolton joined the party in 2013, having previously stood for the Lib Dems against now-Chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2005 General Election, finishing third.
Henry Bolton - 3,874 (29.9%)
Anne Marie Waters - 2,755 (21.3%)
David Kurten - 2201 (17%)
John Rees Evans - 2010 (16.4%)
Peter Whittle - 1,413 (10.9%)
Jane Collins - 566 (4.4%)
Aidan Powlesland - 85 (0.65%)
Farage took to Twitter to congratulate Bolton:
Former Ukip donor Arron Banks, who had frequently talked of setting up his own party, also welcomed the result:
Bolton is a former police officer who also served in the Army, and went to work for the EU as a security consultant.
He was awarded the OBE in 2013 for services to international security and stabilisation for his work in Afghanistan.
In a press conference after his victory, Bolton was keen to move the party away from its recent focus on the perceived threat of Islam to the UK.
He did however say “Islam is of concern” and Muslims “tend to have a more dominating effect than in community” than Christians, as “people are not particularly active in practicing their Christian faith.”
Bolton added: “What I’m saying is there is an issue to be discussed and we need to do that in partnership with the Muslim community of Britain.
“We don’t need to be confronting anyone, I absolutely abhor the rhetoric that says we are at war with Islam or anything that indicates as such.”
When asked if he supported Ukip’s integration agenda from its 2017 manifesto, which included banning the burka in public places and compulsory vaginal examinations on girls deemed to be risk of female genital mutilation, Bolton replied: “Certainly not as it is now. I think we need to look at the integration of all immigrant communities in Britain, but having an integration policy or agenda that focuses on one immigrant community I think is wrong.”