WELLINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Chris Hipkins, who played a significant role in New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister after he emerged as the sole candidate to lead the ruling Labor Party on Saturday is .
Hipkins, 44, is to be confirmed as the new leader at a meeting of 64 Labor MPs (Caucus) on Sunday.
“I think we’re an incredibly strong team,” Hipkins said at a news conference after the party announced him as the sole candidate.
“We have gone through this process with unity and will continue to do so. I feel really fortunate to be working with such an amazing group of people who are genuinely committed to serving the people of New Zealand. “
Known as “Chippy,” Hipkins has built a reputation for proficiency in fighting COVID-19 and has been a Troubleshooting for Ardern when other cabinet ministers struggled.
He did not get involved in his political plans. A cabinet reshuffle proposed by Ardern would take place, but he said he planned to keep Grant Robertson as Treasury Secretary.
He said he spoke to Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who tweeted the two had “a cordial discussion”.
Surprised Notice On Thursday, Ardern said she had “no more in the tank” to lead the country and would step down.
Hipkins was first elected to Parliament for the Labor Party in 2008 and became a household name, leading the government’s response to the pandemic. He was appointed Minister for Health in July 2020 before becoming Minister for COVID Response at the end of the year.
He is now Secretary of Police, Education and Civil Service and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
A Horizon Research quick poll conducted by local media organization Stuff on Friday showed that Hipkins was the most popular potential candidate among voters, with support from 26% of respondents.
He has a big challenge ahead of him, said New Zealander Eva Murphy in Auckland.
“He will never follow in Jacinda’s footsteps and it will be interesting to see what Labor comes up with on next year’s campaign and we look forward to seeing what happens,” she said.
Hipkins’ endorsement by Labor lawmakers on Sunday afternoon is expected to be a formality. Ardern will then submit her resignation to the New Zealand Governor-General before Hipkins is appointed.
If confirmed, Hipkins will serve as prime minister until the end of the party’s term.
General elections will be held on October 10th. 14, with some opinion polls showing Labor behind the opposition New Zealand National Party.
A Taxpayers’ Union and Curia poll released on Friday, based on data before Ardern’s resignation announcement, showed Labor’s popularity slipping to 31.7%, behind Nationals’ 37.2%.
The New Zealand Green Party, Labour’s traditional coalition partner, said in a statement they were looking forward to working with Hipkins.
“Chris will make an excellent Prime Minister and we look forward to continuing our cooperation for the remainder of this term and next,” said Green Party co-leader James Shaw.
Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Additional reporting by Jill Gralow in Auckland; Edited by Deepa Babington, Rosalba O’Brien and William Mallard
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