Chris Hipkins to replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand PM

Chris Hipkins will replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister of New Zealand, following Ardern’s surprise announcement earlier this week that she plans to step down several months ahead of the country’s general election.

Members of the Labour caucus unanimously endorsed Hipkins on Sunday in New Zealand, after he emerged as the sole potential candidate on Saturday.

“I’ve been humbled by the support shown by my colleagues but also really excited by the focus and commitment that I have seen from them to make this a speedy and seamless transition in the best interest of all New Zealanders,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.

Hipkins will be sworn in on Wednesday morning, after joining Ardern for her final formal engagement as prime minister on Tuesday.

Ardern announced her resignation on Thursday, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to continue leading the country. The announcement comes well ahead of New Zealand’s general election this year, which is set to occur in mid-October.

“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 said. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern, who became the world’s youngest female leader when she took office in 2017, garnered international attention throughout her tenure as New Zealand’s prime minister. She was only the second world leader to give birth while in office when she had her daughter in 2018.

In 2019, the country was rocked by a pair of mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that killed more than 50 people. Just days later, New Zealand banned semi-automatic weapons under Ardern’s direction. 

Her strict response in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, while drawing the ire of some, has also been widely touted for saving lives.

Hipkins acknowledged Ardern’s service as prime minister on Sunday, as he looked ahead to his own future in the role.

“She’s been one of New Zealand’s great prime ministers,” he said. “Jacinda provided inspirational leadership through a quick succession of the biggest challenges our country has faced.”

However, Hipkins also noted the particular difficulties that women like Ardern face in leadership positions.

“Jacinda’s leadership has been an inspiration to women and girls everywhere,” he said. “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.”

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark noted in a statement on Thursday that Ardern has faced “a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country.”