New Zealand’s Labour party has unanimously endorsed Education Minister Chris Hipkins to succeed current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as party leader.
Hipkins was the only nominee for the leadership position so his endorsement on Sunday was largely a formality.
At a news conference in Wellington after the decision, Hipkins said, “Earlier today the Labour party caucus, the Labour team of MPs unanimously endorsed me as their new leader and as the next prime minister of New Zealand.”
“I want to acknowledge the outgoing prime minister, my very good friend Jacinda Ardern. She’s been one of New Zealand’s great prime ministers,” Hipkins added.
Ardern said she would be stepping down from the country’s top job in a surprise announcement last Thursday, citing exhaustion.
She is yet to formally resign as prime minister to New Zealand’s Governor General – a step needed to make the decision official.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Ardern said her term would end by February 7, when she expected a new Labour prime minister would be sworn in – though “depending on the process that could be earlier.”
Hipkins said he expects to be sworn in on Wednesday.
A career politician who entered Parliament in 2008, Hipkins became a household name while leading New Zealand’s pandemic management as Covid-19 response minister in Ardern’s cabinet. Aside from being education minister, he is also minister for police and the public service, and Leader of the House.
Speaking to reporters after nominations closed Saturday morning, Hipkins committed to leading the country in a “strong, stable and unified” way but cautioned there were challenges ahead.
“I acknowledge that at the moment, we’re going through some economic turbulence and we’re going to have to navigate our way through there,” he said.
Hipkins also told reporters that he is “incredibly optimistic about New Zealand’s future” and is “really looking forward to the job. I am feeling energized and enthusiastic.”