Baroness Scott will take over as party president from January
The Liberal Democrats have elected Baroness Ros Scott as the new party president, replacing Simon Hughes.
Baroness Scott secured 20,736 votes, beating former frontbencher Lembit Opik, who got 6,247 votes, and Chandila Fernando who received 1,799.
The baroness will take up the post on 1 January and said she intended to ensure the party remained "a genuine grass roots movement".
Just under half (47.8%) of all party members voted in the postal ballot.
Baroness Scott, a former audit commissioner and councillor in Suffolk, is vice-chairman of the Local Government Association. She recently served as the party's spokesman on local government in the House of Lords.
Party Leader Nick Clegg congratulated her on the election results.
"I know that Ros will do a fantastic job of representing the membership and upholding the wonderful tradition of internal party democracy that sets us so apart from other political parties," he said.
"Together with [party chief executive] Chris Rennard, we will have a powerful team working closely together to take us into the next General Election."
He went on to thank Simon Hughes for the huge contribution he had made as party president over the past four years.
"He tirelessly led so many campaigns around the country as president, engaging directly with people and communities with his trademark warmth and energy."
Baroness Scott said she was proud to take up the new role.
"Our party is a genuine grass roots movement, and the job of the president is to ensure that we stay that way - that our members and activists remain at the heart of everything we do.
"Many of the problems this country faces today are a result of successive Tory and Labour Governments failing to face up to the need for strengthening international institutions, failing to regulate the financial services sector and over centralising public services.
"Only the Liberal Democrats have offered an alternative to this old tired thinking and as we approach the next General Election our party needs to rise to the challenge of demonstrating that a vote for either the Labour or Conservative parties simply means more of the same."
The results are likely to come as a blow to her opponent, Lembit Opik, who stood down from a frontbench job in September to concentrate on his campaign for presidency.
The former housing spokesman is one of the best known Liberal Democrats for relationships with weather presenter Sian Lloyd and Cheeky Girls singer Gabriela Irimia.