Chris Hipkins formally confirmed as New Zealand’s next premier

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Education Minister Chris Hipkins was formally confirmed Sunday as New Zealand’s next prime minister following outgoing premier, Jacinda Ardern’s, surprise resignation announcement last Thursday.

After five and a half years in office, Ardern’s plan to step down has shocked many. World leaders and political rivals have since praised her for her leadership during the country’s most difficult moments including the Christchurch massacre in March 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

44-year-old Hipkins has named Carmel Sapuloni as his deputy. She is the first person of Pacific Island heritage to has taken the position.

Hipkins has the unanimous support of Labour Party lawmakers after he was the only candidate to enter the contest to replace Ardern.

Hipkins will be officially sworn into his new role on Wednesday. He will have less than nine months in office before contesting a tough general election in October, with opinion polls indicating his party is trailing its conservative opposition.

The lack of other candidates for the leadership race indicated that party lawmakers had rallied behind Hipkins to avoid a drawn-out contest and any sign of disunity following Ardern’s departure.

“We will deliver a very solid government that is focused on the bread-and-butter issues that matter to New Zealanders, that are relevant to the times that we are in now,” Hipkins said. “2017 was five-and-a-half years ago, and quite a lot has happened since then.”

Opposition leader Christopher Luxon told reporters he’d congratulated Hipkins by text. But Luxon said Hipkins and Sepuloni had been part of a government that had “failed spectacularly” to get things done and after the leadership change, it would be more of the same.