By Griffin Brammer, Newswire Live Show Manager
Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has been voted the new Prime Minister of New Zealand. The vote follows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation last Thursday.
Former prime minister Ardern resigned during the summer caucus retreat for her Labour Party in Napier, New Zealand. Ardern also stated she would not be running for office again once general elections opened later in October 2023.
“I am not leaving because it was hard,” Ardern stated in tears.
“I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not,” Ardern continued.
Hipkins, the sole nominee to lead the Labour Party, was voted into the position unanimously last Sunday during a party meeting.
Despite also being the Deputy Prime Minister, Financial Minister Grant Robertson stated he had no interest in taking the position after two previous failures to take leadership of the party.
“My position has not changed,” Robertson said.
The news of Ardern’s resignation comes after backlash to the Labour Party. New Zealand is currently in an economic downturn due to high inflation rates, and crime rates have risen under the Labour Party’s rule. Recent popularity polls have shown Ardern’s party to be behind compared to the country’s Conservative Party.
Hipkins promised in his first speech after the vote that his government would focus on these issues and rebuilding a stronger economy.
“I take on this job at a challenging time for New Zealanders,” Hipkins stated. “Our focus will be on the right now, on the bread and butter issues that people care about. Some people, many people are hurting at the moment, and I want them to know that we are on their side.”
Hipkins states he plans on delivering these goals by cutting back on some of the Labour Party programs he deems to be not essential.
Hipkins announced with his election that he would be choosing Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni to be sworn in as his Deputy Prime Minister. Sepuloni will be the first Pasifika person in history to hold the role in the New Zealand government.
“I want to acknowledge the significance of this for our Pacific community,” Sepuloni said. “I am proudly Samoan, Tongan and New Zealand European and represent generations of New Zealanders with mixed heritage.”
In his speech, Hipkins also recognized the legacy of Ardern and the sexism that surrounded the backlash she received.
“Jacinda’s leadership has been an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. But it’s also been a reminder that we’ve got a way to go when it comes to ensuring that women in leadership receive the same respect as their male counterparts,” he stated.
Ardern rose to international notoriety after her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Hipkins helped create as the then COVID-19 minister. She was also praised for her response to the Christchurch Mosque shootings in 2019 and the subsequent gun control reform bill her party created.
“(Jacinda Ardern was) one of New Zealand’s great prime ministers,” Hipkins said.