Chris Hipkins to be next New Zealand prime minister

Chris Hipkins, who played a leading role in New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, emerged Saturday as the successor to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Hipkins is the only candidate nominated to lead the Labour Party following Ardern’s shock resignation earlier this week.

“I’m humbled and honored to be the sole nominee for Labour Party Leader and therefore Prime Minister of New Zealand,” said after his nomination in Wellington.

Hipkins, 44, currently holds the portfolios of police, education and public service, will still need to secure the formal endorsement of the ruling Labour Party on Sunday before becoming its leader.

Ardern, who took the world by surprise by announcing her resignation on Thursday saying she no longer had “enough in the tank,” is expected to step down on Feb.7, to be succeeded by Hipkins until the upcoming elections on Oct.14.

With months to go before the elections, the latest polls indicate an increased support for the opposition National Party.

Hipkins spoke about the current economic downturn and his desire to tackle the challenge, as the country faces an increased cost of living and an impending recession this year.

“I’m incredibly optimistic about New Zealand’s future and the opportunities ahead,” he said.

Hipkins was first elected to parliament in 2008, and in November 2020, he was appointed minister for response to Covid-19, which earned him his share of detractors as New Zealand had one of the world’s strictest border closures and control plans for more than two years.

Hipkins praised Ardern as an “incredible prime minister,” who “provided calm, reassured leadership which I hope to continue to do. We are different people, though, and I hope that people will see that.”

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