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Chris Hipkins set to replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand Prime Minister

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WELLINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Chris Hipkins, who played a significant role in New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister after emerging on Saturday as the sole candidate to lead the Labor Party. . .

Hipkins, 44, is expected to be confirmed as leader at a meeting of 64 Labor lawmakers, or Caucus, on Sunday, succeeding Ardern, who made a surprise announcement on Thursday that he “had nothing left in the tank” to lead. the country and would go down.

“I think we’re an incredibly strong team,” Hipkins said at a news conference after the party announced him as the sole candidate.

“We went through this process together and will continue to do so. I’m feeling very happy to be working with such an incredible group of people who have a real commitment to serving the people of New Zealand.”

Known as “Chippy”, Hipkins built a reputation for competence in fighting COVID-19 and was a problem solver for Ardern when other cabinet ministers were struggling.

He would not be attracted to your political plans. A cabinet reshuffle proposed by Ardern would go ahead, but he said he planned to keep Grant Robertson as finance minister.

Hipkins said he had spoken with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who tweeted that the two had “a warm discussion”.

HARD FIGHT

First elected to parliament from the Labor Party in 2008, Hipkins has become a household name at the forefront of the government’s response to the pandemic. He was appointed Minister of Health in July 2020 before becoming Minister for COVID Response later in the year.

He is now Minister for Police, Education and Public Service, as well as Leader of the House.

A Horizon Research flash poll obtained by local media organization Stuff on Friday showed that Hipkins was the most popular potential candidate with voters, with the support of 26% of respondents.

Although Ardern was popular at the start of his five-year tenure, its ratings dropped in a reaction to tight COVID restrictions, rising cost of living and mortgage rates, and concerns about crime.

Rural voters, who switched to Labor in 2020 after Ardern’s initial success against COVID, have embittered the party, angered by the government’s increased environmental and other regulations.

Hipkins has a big challenge ahead of her, said New Zealander Eva Murphy in Auckland.

“He will never step into Jacinda’s shoes and it will be interesting to see what Labor does in terms of the election campaign next year and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens,” she said.

Hipkins’ confirmation by Labor lawmakers on Sunday afternoon is expected to be a formality. Ardern will then tender his resignation to the Governor-General of New Zealand before Hipkins is appointed.

If confirmed, Hipkins will remain prime minister for the remainder of the party’s term.

A general election will be held on October 14, with some opinion polls showing Labor trailing the opposition National Party of New Zealand.

A Taxpayers Union-Curia poll released on Friday, based on data prior to the announcement of Ardern’s resignation, showed Labor’s popularity dropped to 31.7%, trailing the Nationals at 37.2%.

The New Zealand Green Party, Labour’s traditional coalition partner, said in a statement that it looked forward to working with Hipkins.

“Chris will be an excellent prime minister and we look forward to continuing our work together, for the remainder of this term and into the 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

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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