Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun was elected on Tuesday as head of the exiled opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council, a source within the SNC told AFP.
Ghalioun garnered 21 votes in the leadership battle while another opposition figure, Georges Sabra, won 11 of the 40 votes cast by members of the general secretariat, the source said.
Ghalioun has led the coalition since it was founded in October 2011 by the consensus of its members, rather than through election. Up until now, the SNC's executive committee had taken charge of choosing a head for the coalition.
The SNC is Syria's main opposition umbrella group ranged against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The vote was held in Rome, where exiled university professor Ghalioun and other SNC members were meeting.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Unlike Sabra, Ghalioun is not affiliated to any political party.
Left-leaning and Arab nationalist in his thinking, Ghalioun was deemed capable of representing a coalition composed of multiple tendencies, including Islamists, nationalists, liberals and independents.
He is also accepted by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, who are part of the SNC.
"Ghalioun won the vote because many members of the general secretariat wanted to choose a non-partisan to head the council," the SNC source told AFP.
Ghalioun's new term is set to run for three months, the source said, adding that general secretariat members have called on Ghalioun to carry out a reform of the coalition within this time.
The vote came as Syria's anti-regime revolt entered its 15th month on Tuesday, amid relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.