Chris Hepkins: The New Zealand Labor Party supports Ardern’s successor



CNN

New Zealand Labor has unanimously approved Education Minister Chris Hipkins to succeed current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as party leader.

Hipkins was the only candidate for the leadership position, so his endorsement on Sunday was largely a formality.

At a press conference in Wellington after the decision, Hipkins said: “Earlier today, the Labor Party of MPs unanimously endorsed me as their new leader and the next Prime Minister of New Zealand.”

I would like to express my appreciation to the outgoing Prime Minister, my dear friend Jacinda Ardern. She was one of New Zealand’s great Prime Ministers, added Hipkins.

Ardern said she would step down from her top job in the country in a surprise announcement last Thursday, citing exhaustion.

She has not yet formally resigned her position as Prime Minister to the Governor-General of New Zealand – a necessary step for the decision to be formalized.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ardern said her term would end by February 7, when she expected a new Labor prime minister to be sworn in – though “depending on the process that might be earlier”.

Hepkins 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 Epidemic Department as Minister for Covid-19 Response in the Ardern government. Apart from being Minister of Education, he is also Minister of Police and Public Service and Speaker of Parliament.

Speaking to reporters after nominations closed on Saturday morning, Hipkins pledged to lead the country in a “strong, stable and unified” way but warned that there were challenges ahead.

“I acknowledge that right now, we’re going through some economic turmoil and we have to work our way up from there,” he said.

Hipkins also told reporters that he was “incredibly optimistic about the future of New Zealand” and “really looking forward to the job. I feel energized and excited.”

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