Jeffrey Donaldson was the only member to register his candidacy to head the hard-line pro-UK party
Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Tuesday named its third leader in under a month, as a Brexit-soaked saga of political backstabbing rolls on.
Jeffrey Donaldson, who sits in the UK parliament in London, was the only member to register his candidacy to head the hard-line pro-UK party, which has been riven by infighting over post-Brexit trading arrangements for the province.
The 58-year-old politician will replace Edwin Poots, who himself replaced his predecessor Arlene Foster in a brutal putsch fuelled by perceptions that her opposition to the deal was too soft.
Poots was named leader in late May but was swiftly deposed by party colleagues last Thursday, just hours after naming his loyal ally Paul Givan as Foster's replacement as Northern Ireland first minister.
Poots had promised a tough stance against the so-called "Northern Ireland protocol," which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European customs union and single market that the UK left in January.
The protocol has angered pro-UK unionists by upholding EU control over trade in the British province.
Donaldson, who is considered to be a more moderate figure in line with Foster, said he would immediately intervene with the UK government to unravel the protocol.
"It is not realistic to expect stability when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions opposes the Northern Ireland protocol," he said in a statement.
"The government and those who claim to be protectors of peace and stability, must step up and deal with the protocol in a manner which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom."
It is expected that Donaldson, who already led DUP MPs in London, will soon resign his parliamentary seat to serve as the party's leader and first minister simultaneously.
First minister Givan is now expected to be ousted from office in another forthcoming chapter of political tumult for the region.
The Northern Ireland protocol is designed to prevent unchecked goods heading into the EU by the backdoor via member state Ireland, and imposes controls from mainland Great Britain -- England, Scotland and Wales.
Unionists believe it has driven a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country, running the risk of fuelling support for a united Ireland.