the main points
- Mr Hipkins, 44, will be endorsed as party leader at a caucus meeting on Sunday.
- Mr. Hipkins is a trusted political ally of Mrs. Ardern.
- The couple are also close friends, taking their young children on play dates outside Parliament.
Chris Hepkins will become New Zealand’s next prime minister, having been the sole candidate for the role vacated by Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern announced her abrupt resignation Thursday, citing burnout after five and a half years on the job.
Her sudden exit – unheard of in her party room until a few hours earlier – has Labor MPs scrambling to find a replacement as leader and prime minister.
Mr. Hepkins, a trusted ally of Mrs. Ardern, emerged as the consensus candidate and was the only candidate for the role in a hastily drawn ballot.
Senior MPs kept silent when they held talks in Napier, from where they had traveled for a party retreat at the start of the year, and back in Wellington.
No MP has indicated their intention to stand before the 9am nomination deadline on Saturday, adhering to an agreement to maintain discussions within the organisation.
Shortly afterwards, party whip Duncan Webb informed MPs of the only candidate: Mr. Hipkins.
Who is Chris Hepkins?
Mr Hipkins, 44, will be endorsed as party leader at a caucus meeting on Sunday, confirming his rise to the top job in Kiwi politics.
The Member of Parliament for Rimutaka is a likable Member of Parliament, known for his sense of humor and enjoyment of sausage rolls.
A laborer for life, he volunteered for the party at a young age, became president of his university’s students’ union and entered parliament in 2008 in the same group as Ms Ardern.
Mr Hipkins is a trusted political ally of Ms Ardern and has been thrown into challenging jobs – such as COVID-19 minister and police minister – when a safe hand was needed.
The couple are also close friends, taking their young children on play dates outside Parliament.
Mr. Hepkins is also a political warrior with an eagerness to score points which leads him to backtrack and apologize.
His most notable episode for Australians came in 2017, when he used Parliament to seek information about Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship status, drawing criticism from then Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Ms Ardern in a rare trans-Tasman brawl.
This week, Mr Hipkins was quickly seen by Labor MPs as their best option to follow Ms Ardern, particularly given Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson’s decision to exclude himself from contention.
The hastily convened 44-hour process did not allow grassroots Labor members or the New Zealand people a say in the choice of prime minister.
Both Mr. Hipkins and Ms. Ardern argued that this was crucial to allowing stability of government.
Ms Ardern said: “The most important thing is that we focus on a fast process that ensures that the team was able to quickly return to focus on issues of interest to New Zealand.”
While the public was not included in the process, Mr. Hipkins appears to be the popular choice.
A variety of polls from the New Zealand media and polling agencies confirmed that he was the most popular Labor MP to follow in Lady Ardern’s footsteps.
Local media also reported that Labor MPs may rethink the role of deputy leader, currently held by Kelvin Davis.
Kiritabou Allan and Carmel Cipollone have been discussed as possible leadership partners for Mr Hipkins, who is likely to be sworn in as prime minister next week.
Ms Ardern said she would leave parliament entirely by April, ahead of the national election on 14 October.