Chris Hipkins to be New Zealand’s next PM

Hipkins will be elected unopposed by Labour’s parliamentary caucus Sunday, but faces a tough task to win at the October general election.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Jacinda Ardern announced that she would resign as New Zealand Prime Minister on Thursday. A meeting of Labour’s parliamentary caucus was called for Sunday, with a two-thirds majority (43 of the 64 Labour MPs) required to win. If nobody had reached this majority, voting would continue.

However, only one candidate gained the seven MP nominations required to stand: Chris Hipkins. As a result, Hipkins will be elected unopposed by caucus on Sunday. Labour holds a clear majority of 64 of the 120 total parliamentary seats, so Hipkins will be New Zealand’s next PM.

Ardern led Labour to a narrow victory over the conservative National in 2017 on the populist NZ First’s support, breaking a nine-year run of government by National. Labour was re-elected in a landslide in 2020 owing to the popularity of measures to keep COVID out.

Ardern also announced that the next NZ election would be held on October 14. The NZ parliament is elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold, but parties can avoid this threshold by winning a single-member seat.

The combined vote for Labour and the Greens has fallen behind National and the right-wing ACT in the polls. National has led Labour since early 2022, soon after Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins as National leader in November 2021. The Wikipedia poll chart suggests a continued trend against Labour.

Hipkins is the education and policing minister, and has a high profile owing to COVID press conferences. He now faces a tough task to win a third successive term for Labour at the October election.

11 comments on “Chris Hipkins to be New Zealand’s next PM”

  1. Well, here in Australia we love Ardern, but I am afraid that we Australians do not vote at NZ general elections. After looking at the opinion polls trends for the last couple of years, I understand why Ardern resigned, and with her resignation gave Labour the chance for a new start, as the country goes to an election.

    Good luck to Ardern in her new life and thanks for your service…. good Luck to Hipkins and NZ Labour!

  2. Piece of historical trivia for anyone not aware.
    No NZ prime minister has managed to win an election after succeeding someone else from the same part as prime minister since Peter Fraser in the 1940s. Unless you count Keith Holyoke but he lost 1957 and came back in 1960 so he doesn’t count.

    Everyone else since. Jack Marshall, Bill Rowling, Mike Moore, Jenny Shipley, Bill English all failed to stay in office after succeeding someone else in their party as PM.

    However the bright spot for Labour is, since 1990, all governments got 3 terms in office and the last government not to get a 3rd term was the Lange-Palmer-Moore government of the 80s. So if Hipkins losses. Perhaps Ardern will regret standing down because she could have got a 3rd term.

  3. Although NZ Labour is behind in the polls, it is not an unrecoverable position. A bit of a honeymoon bounce and the contest will be close. It might come down to Maori Party once again. Whenever they’re forced to choose a side they end losing support.

  4. My bet Labour in New Zealand will lose next election and it will be a landslide to National.
    Hipkins will not cut through like Ardern did.

  5. B.S. Fairman at 8.48 pm Sun and crispy wedges at 10.25 am

    The contest is still close, and likely to remain so. The latest (Tory leaning) poll is at:

    Look at the party votes over time. National peaked (so far) in April 2022 and has dropped recently, though not as much as Labour.

    On that poll the seat result would be 63 to 57 for Tories, if the Maori Party went with Labour.

    Then look to the bottom of that page. The two Tory leaders, Luxon and Seymour, have slight unfavourability stats, while W. Peters is at – 40%. Don’t be surprised if Hipkins starts with positive favourability.

    The only poll in the past year with NZ First above the 5% threshold was an outlier, so National cannot rely on an unlikely Peters comeback. They and the right wing group ACT are on their own, and it is possible that higher polling for ACT might lead some tentative National voters to switch back to Labour. ACT is a far right libertarian outfit. The Maori Party will probably retain two electorate seats, whatever its party vote.

    The National leader, Christopher Luxon, has less appeal than John Key. He was the CEO of Air New Zealand but may not be suited to politics, unlike Chris Hipkins. When Luxon entered Parliament in 2020 it was with a 9% swing against National in his electorate.

    Hipkins could probably appeal to a wider cross-section on NZ society than Luxon, who is known for his anti-abortion views. It will be a close election. A landslide is unlikely.

    Hipkins has a talent for accidental humour but he will be up for a challenge. See:

  6. The overperformance of U.S. Democrats in the November 2022 midterms is looking more and more impressive (and more and more surprising) considering the decimation of incumbents worldwide during the current inflation crisis. You can hardly cross a border without tripping over a fallen gavel. Left, right, doesn’t matter. Whoever’s in power is getting kicked out.

    Trudeau did well to renew his government when he did– he locked in a status quo result just before polls everywhere started turning hard against government parties. Johnson is no doubt kicking himself for not calling a snap election in mid-2021 to do the same.

    Ardern unfortunately didn’t have any real opportunity to do that, and it looks like NZ Labour is going to go into opposition, although she did right to resign well in advance of campaign season to give her successor at least a puncher’s chance. Who knows, maybe the wingers will get weird there like they did in America…

  7. Many commentators have put forward their reasons as to why Jacinda Adhern is resigning as PM.
    Most have said she wants out before the next election because Labour is behind in the polls and she wants to go out as a winner.
    One theory is that Ardern finally got the message from our former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that she would have difficulty working with her should she become PM of NZ.
    No doubt Julie is now saying ‘See, I told you its hard to build trust with her’
    Of course, the MSM Tories are having none of this “I want to spend more time with my family” explanation.

  8. Ardern has done a fantastic job and leaves with an unblemished election record.
    What more can you ask for?

    Well done Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern. Will one of your children on3 day follow in your famous footsteps?

    And how refreshing, a politician who does not cling to power until his rotten flesh has to be chiselled from its reins!

  9. 98.6 at 7.25 pm

    I would not call that a theory, but, now that you mention it, the person who got up Julie Bishop’s nose by revealing that Barnaby Joyce had a long lost line in Kiwi citizenship was the incoming PM Chris Hipkins.

  10. Paul Thomas, Boris Johnson couldn’t call a snap election in 2021 because the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act didn’t receive the Royal Assent until 24 March 2022, and only passed through parliament earlier that year, by when the partygate scandal was already weighing him down. Trudeau certainly got the better deal, unexpectedly receiving status quo but having a vaguely plausible opposition leader replaced by someone who seems to be much higher risk. You’d really have to like the chances of the Canadian Liberals when they do finally call the election, both against the Conservatives and against the NDP.

  11. @Felix: Sure, but Johnson was not devoid of control over the timeline– had he forcefully pushed for a snap election in 2021, one presumes the party would have passed the legislation necessary to make it happen.

    I mean I get why he didn’t– he would likely have won but with a considerably reduced majority, and at the time it wasn’t possible to foresee just how bad the UK cost of living crisis would get. If there’s one thing Boris Johnson is not, it’s clairvoyant. I’m just noting that hindsight (and the shambolic governance of his successors, to be fair) has made it look like a much better option.

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