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New Zealand getting new P.M. after Ardern quits

January 21, 2023
FILE: New Zealand’s Education Minister and former COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as the country’s Prime Minister. (Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP)

(CNN) — New Zealand will soon have a new leader.

The country’s education minister — Chris Hipkins — is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister following her shocking resignation announcement earlier this week.

“I’m really looking forward to the job and I’m feeling energized and enthusiastic and I’m looking forward to getting into the work. So I do want to thank the people of New Zealand as well for their patience during this process. I acknowledge that the resignation of a prime minister is a big thing,” he said on Saturday. 

Hipkins emerged as the only candidate to be nominated for the leadership of the ruling Labour party on Saturday morning.

The Labour Party caucus is due to meet on Sunday to formally endorse and confirm Hipkins as leader, party whip Duncan Webb said.

New Zealand’s next general election is expected to be held on October 14.

Hipkins is a career politician who entered Parliament in 2008, and became a household name 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.

He served almost two years as Covid-19 response minister in a country that kept infections and deaths relatively low after shutting its borders. He also oversaw New Zealand’s phased reopening before fully welcoming back all international travel last July.

Ardern said Thursday that she would stand aside for a new leader, saying she doesn’t believe she has the energy to seek reelection.

Speaking at a news conference then, 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 Ardern — whose tenure coincided with a terrorist attack, natural disasters and a global pandemic — was “the leader that we needed at the time that we needed it.”

And he acknowledged that, like Ardern, he would be opening himself up to “a lot scrutiny and a lot of criticism” by putting his name forward.

“I go into this job with my eyes wide open, knowing what I’ve stepped into,” Hipkins said.

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