32 out of 36 members of the Electoral College, which consists of 28 DUP deputies in the Parliament of Northern Ireland and eight of its representatives in the British legislature, voted for Donaldson.
Donaldson, 58, who leads the DUP parliamentary group in the London parliament, was the only candidate for party leader, after two months of turmoil in that largest Northern Irish party.
In the previous elections for the leader of the DUP, held last month, Donaldson lost closely to Edwin Putts. Puts resigned last week, amid revolt by party colleagues over an agreement to appoint new members of the Protestant-Catholic government that runs the country under a power-sharing agreement.
Donaldson said he believes his election is an “important first step” in building the unity and strength of the DUP that will provide the leadership needed by Northern Ireland at this time.
He said he would return from London to Belfast to take over as prime minister, but it is not yet known when that will happen. The head of the government of Northern Ireland is now Paul Givan, when he was appointed by the current leader of the DUP, Edwin Putz.
Donaldson said that one of his priorities would be “to correct the wrong” in the Protocol on Northern Ireland, a trade agreement between the British government and the EU for the period after Brexit, which envisages customs and border controls of some goods at the crossing from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Because of such a solution, the Protocol provoked the anger of the unionist community, which opposes the weakening of ties with Great Britain.
The DUP initially opposed the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement, but later accepted it and agreed to share power with the Sinn Féin party, affiliated with the former Irish Republican Army (IRA), which advocates the unification of the two Irish.
The joint government of Protestant unionists, supporters of a common state with Great Britain, and pro-Catholic Catholic Republicans, often faces a blockade of decision-making. Last year’s British exit from the EU (Brexit) disturbed the political balance in Northern Ireland.