Who is Christopher Luxon – New Zealand’s new PM who vows to lead country out of economic slump

Who is Christopher Luxon – New Zealand’s new PM who vows to lead country out of economic slump

Barely three years after entering politics and having served just one term in parliament, former businessman Christopher LuxonNew Zealand’s next prime minister – bets on his business skills to help the country recover from an economic slump.

New Zealand’s incumbent prime minister Chris Hipkins conceded deafeat in the national elections on Saturday. In last week’s elections, the National Party, which is currently in opposition, had about 40 per cent of the votes, while the ACT had 9 per cent, giving the coalition enough seats to form a government.

This is up from the 25.6 per cent the party had in the previous poll three years ago. The coalition now holds 61 seats in the 121-seat parliament, according to provisional results from the Electoral Commission with the final results due to be announced on 3 November.

The 53-year-old businessman spent over six years as the chief of national carrier Air New Zealand and prior to that nearly two decades working at global consumer goods firm Unilever.

Mr Luxon reportedly joined Unilever’s management training programme in the final year of a commerce degree, and worked with the multinational company for 18 years, before climbing its ranks to become the chief executive of the Canadian operation.

He said he would apply the skills he brought to managing businesses to improve New Zealand’s econonmy and help the nation’s “squeezed middle” with tax cuts.

During his campaign, he vowed to curb historically high inflation and reduce government debt by cutting spending and narrowing the central bank’s mandate to target inflation, in order to help financially stretched middle-income families.

“I’ve done a lot of mergers and acquisitions and I’ve done a lot of negotiations. Getting the chemistry and getting the relationship right is the platform and the foundation for actually then being able to work your way through the transactional issues,” Mr Luxon told reporters on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

In the lead up to the elections, both the millionaire businessman and the incumbent prime minister Mr Hipkins, struggled to connect with the public, compared to New Zealand’s former charismatic leader Jacinda Ardern, who was treated like a rockstar by people whereever she went in the country.

“Data indicates that Chris Luxon is probably one of the most not-liked prime ministers that we’ve had. I imagine he’ll get a bit of a honeymoon bump but he definitely does face some challenges around things like likeability and trust,” Lara Greaves, a political scientist at Victoria University of Wellington, told Bloomberg.

He has also faced scrutiny for speaking about Christianity in a country where almost half the people say they have no religion. Mr Luxon has had to defend stances such as personally opposing abortion. He has committed to maintaining legal abortion and supported same-sex marriage.

“Faith is deeply personal, but I am not there to act in the interests of one faith, one group, one person or one belief system. I’m there to represent all New Zealanders,” he told Reuters earlier this year.

A millionaire father of two with several homes across the country, Mr Luxon is learning the Maori language and is a Taylor Swift fan, quoting her in televised debates and interviews.

Although well-travelled, he is largely untried on foreign policy. Mr Luxon has strongly supported Ukraine in its invasion by Russia, in line with New Zealand’s traditional allies. He has said there will be little change in New Zealand’s foreign policy.

(With additional reporting from agencies)