Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s incumbent minister for police, education and public service, is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as the country’s next Prime Minister following the latter’s surprise announcement to step down next month.
Hipkins is currently the only nominee for the Labour leadership and will still need to be formally endorsed by the party in the House of Representatives on Sunday before he can assume the top post, the BBC reported on Saturday.
If he receives the endorsement, Ardern will formally tender her resignation to the Governor-General on February 7, who will then on behalf of King Charles III appoint Hipkins as Prime Minister.
Hipkins, 44, was first elected to Parliament in 2008 and appointed minister for Covid-19 in November 2020.
During her resignation announcement on Thursday, Ardern — who at 37 became the youngest female head of government in the world when she took office in 2017 — said she did not have “enough in the tank” to lead and added that the past five-and-a-half years had been the “most fulfilling” of her life.
However, she added that leading the country during “crisis” had been difficult — with the Covid pandemic, Christchurch mosque shootings and White Island volcanic eruption taking place during her premiership.
Inflation and increasing social inequality saw Ardern’s popularity fall to all-time lows, according to opinion polls, reports the BBC.
The polls also suggested public approval of the country’s Labour Party was similarly low.