Chris Hipkins is set to replace Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s next prime minister after emerging as the only candidate nominated to lead the Labour Party, the party said on Saturday.
Hipkins is expected to be confirmed as the new leader at a meeting of Labour’s 64 lawmakers, or Caucus, on Sunday.
The leader said in the 24-hours following her announcement she has felt a “range of emotions” from sadness to a “sense of relief”.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Ms Ardern admitted she had “slept well for the first time in a long time”.
She denied that experiences of misogyny had played a role in her decision to step down, but said she had a “message for women in leadership and girls who are considering leadership in the future” that “you can have a family and be in these roles”.
Ms Ardern will step down by February 7 and Labour Party MPs will hold a leadership vote on Sunday. New Zealand will hold a general election on October 14.
First elected to parliament for the Labour Party in 2008, the 44-year-old Hipkins became a household name fronting the government’s response to the pandemic after being appointed minister for COVID-19 in November 2020.
Hipkins is currently minister for police, education and public service as well as leader of the House.
A Horizon Research snap poll obtained by local media organization Stuff on Friday showed that Hipkins was the most popular potential candidate among voters, with the backing of 26% of those surveyed.
Hipkins’s confirmation by Labour lawmakers at a meeting on Sunday afternoon is expected to be a formality. Ardern will then tender her resignation to the Governor General before Hipkins is appointed.
Hipkins becomes prime minister until the party’s term ends.