Chris Hipkins officially became New Zealand’s new prime minister on Wednesday, succeeding Jacinda Ardern at an inauguration ceremony in Wellington. “It’s the greatest privilege and responsibility of my life,” said Chris Hipkins, 44, saying he was “motivated” and “excited” about the “challenges ahead.”
Chris Hipkins has been hailed for his nearly two-year term as minister in charge of the fight against Covid-19, in a country which closed its borders to ward off the pandemic and only reopened them in August 2022 .
Jacinda Ardern stunned New Zealand last week when she abruptly announced her stepping down from power, less than three years after winning a second term in a landslide election victory. Jacinda Ardern, 42, said she no longer had “enough energy” to continue performing her duties, after five years marked by a deadly volcanic eruption, the worst attack ever perpetrated in the country and the Covid-19 pandemic .
Read also: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces resignation
“I leave with a feeling of gratitude after having carried out this wonderful role for so many years,” she told reporters in Ratana (north) on Tuesday, to the applause of some spectators, during her last public trip as Prime Minister.
Fall in popularity
But the popularity of the Labor government (centre-left) has deteriorated in recent months due to a looming recession and a resurgence of the Conservative opposition.
Chris Hipkins, who rose to prominence leading his country’s tough response to the coronavirus, will have the daunting task of reviving his popularity ahead of the October 2023 general election. The new Prime Minister has already set the cap: “Covid-19 and the global pandemic are at the root of a health crisis. Now, this crisis is also economic, and it is on this point that my government will focus,” he said.
Chris Hipkins, who describes himself as an ‘enthusiast outdoors’ who loves mountain biking, hiking and swimming, studied politics and criminology at the University of Victoria and later worked in industrial training.
In Wellington, the New Zealand Prime Minister, just invested, also described as “absolutely odious” the attacks that his predecessor suffered when she was head of state. While Jacinda Ardern’s resignation has sparked a nationwide debate about the denigration of women leaders, particularly on social media, the former prime minister said on Tuesday that she would “hate” to see her sudden departure seen as criticism of his country.
Abroad, her departure was greeted by several personalities, including Prince William, who was one of the first to congratulate the one who has become, during her five-year term, the world symbol of a progressive policy. “Thank you Jacinda Ardern for your friendship, leadership and support over the years, especially at the time of my grandmother’s death,” he wrote on Twitter.
Thank you @jacindaardern for your friendship, leadership and support over the years, not least at the time of my grandmother’s death. Sending you, Clarke and Neve our best wishes. W&C
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) January 24, 2023
British folk singer Yusuf “Cat” Stevens, who performed in New Zealand at the 2019 Christchurch bombing tribute ceremony, also greeted the former Prime Minister on this social network, thanking her for “keeping New Zealanders together” after this attack on the Muslim community.
Jacinda Ardern, who will continue to sit in Parliament, has announced her intention to distance herself from political oratorical contests.