Chris Hipkins Confirmed as New Zealand Leader, Picks Deputy – The Diplomat

Oceania | Politics | Oceania

Hipkins has less than nine months before a general election, which could prove difficult for the incumbent government.

Chris Hipkins confirmed as New Zealand leader, chooses deputy

Chris Hipkins, right, and Carmel Sepuloni arrive at a press conference at Parliament in Wellington on Sunday, January 22, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Nick Perry

Chris Hipkins was confirmed as New Zealand’s next prime minister on Sunday, picking Carmel Sepuloni as his deputy, marking the first time a person of Pacific Island heritage has ascended to that rank.

Hipkins won the unanimous support of lawmakers from his Labor Party after he was the only candidate to enter the contest to replace Jacinda Ardern, who shocked the nation last Thursday when she announced her resignation after more than five years as leader.

Hipkins will be officially sworn into his new role on Wednesday. He will have less than nine months to run in a tough general election, with opinion polls showing his party trailing its conservative opposition.

The lack of other contenders for the leader indicated the party’s lawmakers had rallied behind Hipkins to avoid a protracted contest and any sign of discord following Ardern’s departure.

Setting out his priorities, Hipkins said he knew many families were struggling because of the “inflationary pandemic” and that the economy would be central to his government’s thinking.

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When asked if he wanted to take on the same transformational approach to government that Ardern had promised after first winning the top job, Hipkins indicated he wanted to get back to basics.

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

Like Hipkins, Sepuloni first became a legislator 15 years ago and most recently took on the social development and employment portfolio as one of the government’s top ministers.

She said it was “very hard to fathom that a working-class girl” from a small town in New Zealand could end up as Deputy Prime Minister.

“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 of mixed heritage.”

Sepuloni said she had already received plenty of humiliating messages about another glass ceiling being shattered.

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

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