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Justin Trudeau kisses his wife Sophie as they arrive on stage in Montreal on Oct. 20.


There he was, in a tight T-shirt and red boxing gloves on the BBC: Canada's new prime-minister-designate. There he was again – shirtless and flexing this time – on the homepage of Britain's The Independent newspaper.

Justin Trudeau was even more ubiquitous on social media, where Twitter and Facebook users traded links to pictures of him showcasing his, um, leadership skills. "The votes are in and Canada has come out of its election with a super hot new leader" was how the Australian news website put it.

There were, of course, other, more substantial reactions from abroad. Pro-Israeli and pro-Ukrainian websites worried they had lost a strong friend in outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Meanwhile, the climate-change crowd cheered. And Russian state media seemed to take particular glee in the defeat of Mr. Harper, who had become one of President Vladimir Putin's loudest international critics.

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Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

But most of the reaction was about the camera-friendly new leader with the famous last name.

"I hate to say it, but I think Canada's new PM is really giving Putin a run for his money in the 'topless photos on the internet' department," tweeted Hend Amry, a Libyan activist better know for her commentary on the Middle East.

Her comment sparked a fresh exchange of links to photos of Canada's "hunky" new leader. Half an hour later – after the online magazine Slate published "a guide to Justin Trudeau's hairstyles and emotions" (declaring that Mr. Trudeau's "piercing stare won a decisive victory over every single other thing in Canada") – Hend experienced something like remorse. "Um, this isn't the kind of gender equality in the media we meant."

Slate and other media also took the opportunity to retell tales of the fabled dating life of Mr. Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, while he was prime minister for most of 1968 to 1984.

That led to the inevitable comparisons between Mr. Trudeau and John F. Kennedy Jr., helped along by the congratulatory note Mr. Trudeau the younger received on Twitter from Catherine Clark, the daughter of another former prime minister, Joe Clark. Ms. Clark's message was retweeted by Ben Mulroney, the son of yet another former prime minister.

It all came across as something halfway between Camelot and Fargo. "Canada is a small town," was the assessment of Larry Anderson, a California-based proofreader for a market-research company.

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It's probably not the kind of attention Mr. Trudeau was hoping for the day after his stunning election at the head of a majority Liberal government. Canada's reputation, arguably, needs some fixing in the world. Giving the United Nations a giggle with photos of that time he sported a goatee in the House of Commons may or may not help.

Among those more interested in Mr. Trudeau's likely foreign policy, there were conflicting responses. "Pro-Israel Canadian PM defeated" was the headline on Israel's Ynetnews, where Mr. Harper is viewed is one of the staunchest supporters of the Jewish state.

There was no mourning in Moscow, however, where Mr. Harper is remembered as the leader who told Mr. Putin to "get out of Ukraine" at a Group of 20 meeting last year. The Kremlin-owned Sputnik news service used exclamation marks to declare "Trudeau wins! Crack-smoking ex-mayor fails to save Canada's Conservatives," referencing Mr. Harper's late campaign rally with disgraced former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Meanwhile, sources as diverse as and Scientific American hypothesized that Mr. Trudeau, once in office, might play a more constructive role than his predecessor during the final weeks of negotiations before a global climate-change summit in Paris in December. Mr. Trudeau has promised a new climate-change policy, after consultations with the provinces, within 90 days of the Paris meeting.

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore tweeted that "I'm hopeful tonight's election will put Canada back in a leadership position" on the climate-change file.

At Canada House in London, staff at the High Commission found themselves hosting a standing-room-only crowd of 165 people who gathered Tuesday morning – even as the final results were still being tabulated – to hear a snap analysis from historian Margaret MacMillan, among others.

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Questions from the Canada House audience ranged from whether the incoming Liberal government would pay more attention to international institutions such as the Commonwealth, to how fast Mr. Trudeau might be able to change Canada's position on the climate-change file.

Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this article contained an incomplete reference to Ms. Amry's name. This version has been amended.

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