New Zealand crowns youngest female leader ever

A minority party threw its support behind labour leader Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s soon to be youngest ever female Prime Minister

(Photo: Il Post)
(Photo: Il Post)

Jacinda Ardern said that she is both “privileged and humbled” to become prime minister, 26 days after the country’s electorate cast their votes.

At an eagerly awaited press conference on Thursday, the kingmaker Winston Peters announced that his New Zealand First party would throw its support behind Ardern’s Labour party.

This would allow Labour to form a coalition government with NZ First, along with the backing of the Green party, which means Ardern, aged 37, becomes New Zealand’s third female prime minister.

Ardern, who also becomes New Zealand’s youngest prime minister for 150 years, said she was committed to forming a strong and durable government.

“This is an exciting day. We aspire to be a government for all New Zealanders and one that will seize the opportunity to build a fairer, better new Zealand.

“We will work hard to ensure New Zealand is once again a world leader, a country we can all be proud of. We said we could do this, we will do this.”

Peters announced that he would support labour, because the global environment was undergoing rapid and seismic change and he believed a labour government was best-placed to handle the social and economic welfare of New Zealanders.

“For too many New Zealanders capitalism has not been their friend but their foe, ” Peters said, claiming vulnerable New Zealanders had been left behind while the political elite got richer.

“We believe capitalism must regain its human face, and that conviction deeply influenced our decision.” 

 “We had a choice for a modified status quo or for change … that’s why in the end we chose a coalition government with NZ First and the Labour party.” 

Peters said neither of the leaders knew of his decision before he took the podium, and learned of his choice at the same time as New Zealand voters. Ardern said she “enjoyed the theatre” of the dramatic unveiling of the country’s change of government, while Bill English, the National party leader and outgoing prime minister, said he was unfazed and it was “a bit of a detail”.

English has called Ardern to congratulate her and has conceded defeat, but said with 44.4% of the vote and 56 seats in the 120-strong parliament – the largest single party – National would be the strongest opposition the country had ever seen.

Ardern has confirmed that NZ First’s nine MPs would have four cabinet roles and one junior role outside cabinet, although details of the portfolios would not be published till next week.

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