Education Minister Chris Hipkins is set to replace the outgoing Jacinda Ardern as the next prime minister of New Zealand after emerging Saturday as the sole candidate to become the country's next leader.
Hipkins, 44, was unanimously chosen by the Labour Party to succeed Ardern as its head, and while he has yet to be officially nominated, that is expected to happen on Sunday. From there, the transfer of power is likely to occur prior to Ardern stepping down on Feb. 7.
"It's a big day for a boy from the Hutt," Hipkins told reporters after his selection, per The Associated Press. "I'm really humbled and really proud to be taking this on. It is the biggest responsibility and the biggest privilege of my life."
Hipkins, who has served as education minister since 2017, was described by The Guardian as "the face and primary implementer of the COVID elimination strategy," and became known for working alongside Ardern to craft New Zealand's globally praised response to the pandemic.
His appointment as prime minister comes after Ardern shocked New Zealand — and the world — by announcing last week that she would be stepping down as prime minister, saying, "I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple."
While Ardern, who led the Labour Party to a landslide electoral victory in 2020, has enjoyed favorability in New Zealand since coming into office in 2017, her approval ratings had been slipping recently in favor of the conservative National Party. Hipkins may have a similarly tough time galvanizing his party, and will have just eight months as prime minister before contesting a new national election in October.