Chris Hipkins Nominated to Succeed New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party has nominated Chris Hipkins to succeed Jacinda Ardern as the country’s prime minister after Ardern announced on Thursday that she would be stepping down from the top role.

Hipkins, 44, currently serves as the education minister and previously led the country’s COVID-19 response. He is expected to receive formal endorsement from his Labour Party colleagues on Sunday for the takeover.

“There is still a bit to go in this process. There is still a meeting tomorrow and a vote, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of that,” Hipkins said at a media briefing on Saturday after the party named him their sole nominee.

“I do want to thank them for the way the process has been handled. I do think we’re an incredibly strong team. We have gone through this process with unity, and we will continue to do that,” he added.

Hipkins told reporters that a cabinet reshuffle would occur but that Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson could retain his position as the Finance Minister in the new government, local media RNZ reported.

Robertson posted a photo of them with Ardern on his Instagram account and congratulated Hipkins on his nomination, saying that Hipkins “has been there through thick and thin,” referring to Hipkins’ 15 years of experience in politics.

“He is experienced and deeply grounded in Labour values. When I think of him, one of the first things that pop into my mind is that he is an amazing dad. His care and love for kids is something I so admire. He is going to be a great leader and PM,” he wrote.

Hipkins will have only a little more than eight months in the role before contesting a general election. Opinion polls have indicated that Labour is trailing its main opponent, the conservative National Party.

Besides holding the education portfolio, Hipkins is also minister for police and the public service, and leader of the House. He is known as a political troubleshooter who has taken on a variety of roles to try to iron out problems created by other lawmakers.

Hipkins is considered more centrist than leftist Ardern, and colleagues hope that he will appeal to a broad range of voters. Among his biggest challenges during an election year will be convincing voters that his party is managing the economy well.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a post-cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on May 23, 2022. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ardern, 42, who was elected as prime minister in 2017, said she was resigning because she no longer “has enough left in the tank” for another four-year term.

“I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility,” she said at the Labour Party’s caucus meeting in Napier. “The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not.”

She leaves behind a mixed legacy, with many praising her for her empathy as prime minister when responding to events such as the March 2019 Christchurch massacre that resulted in the death of 51 people in two mosques.

But her legacy was marred by her government’s COVID-19 response, which saw New Zealanders rally in the thousands multiple times during 2021–22 over government-mandated lockdowns, strict vaccine mandates, and quarantine measures.

Stephen Hoadley, an assistant professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, believes that Ardern could be tapped by the United Nations or other organizations, given her extensive experience and prominence.

“She has the potential, she has the ability, she has the profile, she has the acceptability to do a whole lot of things,” Hoadley told AP. “Give her a few weeks to rest up, and to refill the tank, to use her phrase. But I would imagine by the end of this year, she’ll be off and running on a whole new career line.”

Victoria Kelly-Clark and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly

Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.

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