Former New Zealand Covid-19 official Chris Hipkins, 44, has been nominated by Labor MPs to replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the party announced in a statement on Friday. communicated.
Chris Hipkins must still be formally appointed Sunday by the leadership of his party before he can become the 41st Prime Minister of his country, after the surprise resignation of Jacinda Ardern Thursday.
The new head of government will be responsible for leading his party in the general elections in October, for which he is not the favorite, according to the polls.
“The Labor Party caucus will meet at 1 p.m. on Sunday to ratify the nomination and confirm Chris Hipkins as leader of the party,” said Duncan Webb, a Labor party executive.
As leader of the ruling party, Mr Hipkins will also become Prime Minister when Ms Ardern leaves office.
Jacinda Ardern, a global figurehead of progressive politics, stunned New Zealand when she announced her abrupt removal from power, less than three years after winning a second term in a landslide election victory.
During her tenure, she faced the Covid-19 pandemic, a deadly volcanic eruption and the country’s worst ever attack, the killing of 51 Muslim worshipers at two Christchurch mosques by a white supremacist in 2019.
– “Tough and competent” –
Ms Ardern said her decision to step down was “tinged with sadness” but that after making the announcement she had “slept well for the first time in a long time”.
Political commentators have joined in condemning the inappropriate comments on social media targeting Ms Ardern before her resignation.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Ms Ardern had “faced a level of hatred and vitriol” that was “unprecedented in our country”.
His successor is widely regarded as a seasoned politician, with more than 14 years in parliament.
Political columnist Josie Pagani called him “sensitive, sympathetic, tough and competent”.
The country’s main opposition party, the National Party, did not react immediately to Chris Hipkins’ victory.
Mr Hipkins’ appointment also ended speculation that Justice Minister Kiri Allan could have become the first Maori to lead New Zealand.
– “Incredibly strong” –
The latter congratulated Mr. Hipkins, saying he would be “an incredibly strong Prime Minister”.
Chris Hipkins has been hailed for his nearly two-year term as minister in charge of the fight against Covid-19 in a country which closed its borders to ward off the pandemic and only reopened them in August 2022.
He admitted last year that people were fed up with tough pandemic restrictions, describing border closures as “difficult”.
On a lighter note, Mr Hipkins made a famous slip in 2021 when he remarked that virus restrictions prevented New Zealanders from “going out and spreading their legs”, instead of stretching them.
He describes himself as an “enthusiast outdoors” who enjoys mountain biking, hiking and swimming.