NEW ZEALAND: Who will take over?  Race begins to replace Ardern as New Zealand PM

NEW ZEALAND: Who will take over? Race begins to replace Ardern as New Zealand PM

AFP

The unexpected resignation of Jacinda Ardern This Friday (20th) a race broke out to choose the new prime minister New Zealandwith the emergence of a small group of candidates for the position, including a Maori minister.

Ardern stunned Thursday (19th) by announcing his abrupt resignation from office less than three years after winning a second term in a resounding election victory.

The 42yearold ruler, who has guided the country through natural disasters, the Covid19 pandemic and the worst terrorist attack in its history, said she didn’t have “the energy” to continue.

The Prime Minister resigned without leaving a clear successor and her Labor Party is now scrambling to find a replacement. Labor MPs will try to choose a successor on Sunday.

The winner must receive twothirds of the votes among the party’s lawmakers. If this does not succeed, a selection process takes place with the participation of the party bases and affiliated trade unions.

Chris Hipkins, 44, is the front runner after Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson ruled out taking part in the race. Hipkins has headed departments responsible for the Covid19 response, policing and education.

Other names in the running are Justice Secretary Kiri Allan, of Maori descent, and Migration Secretary Michael Wood.

None of the three confirmed if they intend to run.

First Maori?

Allan, a former business lawyer, entered Parliament in 2017 and was quickly cast as a future leader and possibly the first female Maori prime minister. In April 2021 she was forced to take a leave of absence from Parliament after being diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer, returning to work three months later.

The first Maori settlers would have arrived in New Zealand from Polynesia 700 years ago. According to the latest census, approximately 17% of New Zealand’s five million population identify as Maori. The 15 Maori Labor MPs are expected to have a say in choosing the new leader.

“Of course we would like to see a Maori prime minister one day,” said Labor MP Kelvin Davis.

The Maori party Te Pati, also known as the Maori Party, believes the time has come for a prime minister of Maori descent.

“Anything else would be a step backwards for Aotearoa (New Zealand) since Jacinda Ardern,” party leaders Debbie NgarewaPacker and Rawiri Waititi said in a statement.

For now, Michael Wood is the third name circulating in the dispute. The 42yearold minister was responsible for raising the country’s minimum wage and has broad support from the trade union movement.