New Zealand joins search for the young, chooses 37-year-old woman as PM

By Editor on 19/10/2017

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New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinta Ardern, 37, is poised to become prime minister after maverick populist Winston Peters backed the charismatic to form a government. Peters’ decision, which came after the September 23 election ended deadlocked, gives her Labour Party the numbers to form a government with his New Zealand First and the Greens.

Labour will lead the next government in a coalition with NZ First. The Greens are expected to back Labour on confidence and supply, giving the combined parties 63 seats, two more than the 61 majority they need.

Prime Minister Bill English’s National party won 56 seats.

Ms Ardern, who only found out the news at the same time as the rest of the country, opened her first press conference as prime minister elect by acknowledging her predecessor in the role, National leader Bill English.

“I want to thank Bill English for the role he has played in this campaign but also as prime minister and as serving in the past as NZ’s finance minister,” she said.

“Mr English has already called me this evening and acknowledged that negotiations for the National Party have now concluded.”

Labour will hold a caucus meeting on Friday morning to select a cabinet. Four places will go to NZ First MPs, while they will also have a parliamentary undersecretary.

The Greens are expected to have proportional representation, but given that party is still finalising arrangements Ms Ardern would not go into detail about whether those roles would be inside cabinet or not.

Mr Peters has been offered the role of deputy prime minister, pushing aside Labour’s deputy Kelvin Davis, but Ms Ardern said he was still considering whether to take up that offer.

Kingmaker Winston Peters backed centre-left opposition leader Jacinda Ardern to become prime minister Thursday after finally moving to break the country’s general election deadlock.

The powerbroker’s decision, made almost four weeks after the September 23 poll, gives Ardern’s Labour Party the numbers to form a coalition government with Peters’ New Zealand First and the Greens. The combined parties hold 63 seats, two more than the 61 majority they need.

“We had a choice to make for a modified status quo or for change... that’s why in the end we chose a coalition government of New Zealand First with the New Zealand Labour Party,” Peters told reporters.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten became the first Australian leader to congratulate Jacinta Ardern after Winston Peters’ announcement.

“Congratulations Jacinda Ardern and NZ Labour - a new era for New Zealand,” he tweeted.

New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has sent Ms Ardern a direct message congratulating her and organising to speak personally as soon as possible after she makes her announcement, The Australian understands.

The 37-year-old Ms Ardern came to lead her party in early August after former opposition leader Andrew Little quit the position in the wake of dismal polling.

“Everyone knows that I have just accepted, with short notice, the worst job in politics,” Ms Ardern said on the day she accepted the leadership with just weeks to build up support in the coming election.. “There is no doubt that being in opposition is hard. That’s why I’m using the next eight weeks to get our team out of it.”

As the campaign wore on her party staged an unprecedented resurgence, climbing by up to 20 points in opinion polls.

It became known as “Jacindamania”, with the new leader putting immigration at the heart of her campaign, proposing to cut net arrivals by up to 30,000 annually.

In charm and charisma, her opponent, National leader Bill English, who took over the top job when his predecessor John Key resigned last year, was eclipsed.

Stepping into government brings the left out of the cold of opposition for the first time in nine years.

Mr Peters says he has been offered deputy prime minister if that’s what he chooses, as well as portfolios to be decided in consultation with Ms Ardern. He would not reveal what those portfolios are.

All NZ First’s ministerial portfolios will be inside cabinet, but Mr Peters says negotiations on what those portfolios will have are yet to be concluded. “You don’t want to put square pegs into round holes so to speak. If you’re going to have associate ministers you have to make sure they get on,” he said. Ms Ardern was not told in advance of the press conference, meaning she discovered she was prime minister via a live stream.

National leader Bill English was also not told ahead.

Mr Peters said the decision was owed first to the New Zealand people. “With respect the people of this country are the ones who deserve to know first,” he said, through he conceded “that would be the nice thing to do”. The Green Party continues to have a confidence and supply agreement with the Labour Party, while NZ First will be in full coalition.

Mr Peters said it was up to Ms Ardern what position the Greens have in cabinet. NZ First made the decision based on how to best mitigate, not worsen, what New Zealand is expected to face in the coming years, Mr Peters said. He has anticipated an economic correction or slowdown and believes the major policies secured in the negotiations are the best to advance New Zealand’s economic and social condition.

“Big or small, all of these policies are important,” he said. “It is not my privilege or responsibility to summarise and announce them today, that will befall someone else.” Ms Ardern is expected to hold a press conference immediately after Mr Peters finishes speaking.

Mr Shorten said Ms Arden’s victory was “an inspiration for women and girls around the world”. Ms Arden is the third woman to serve as Prime Minister in the country.

Mr Shorten said the New Zealand and australia friendship is “stronger than ever”.

“Jacinda brought extraordinary energy to the Labour leadership and campaigned passionately for inclusive, progressive policies, founded on universal Labo(u)r values.”

“My team and I look forward to building and strengthening the connection between our two nations – and I trust the Government shares this commitment,” he said in a statement.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard also congratulated Ms Ardern.

“Congrats to Jacinda Ardern and the NZ Labour team. After many nail-biting days, a great result!”





Posted on October, 19 2017

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