New Zealand welcomed a new prime minister on Wednesday, six days after Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation ahead of upcoming elections.
Chris Hipkins, 44, was sworn in at a dedication ceremony in the capital, Wellington, on Wednesday.
Hipkins was first elected to Parliament in 2008 and led the country’s Covid-19 policy in 2020. Before becoming Prime Minister, he was Secretary of Education, Secretary of Police, Secretary of Civil Service and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Hipkins was unanimously backed by the ruling Labor Party on Sunday to succeed Ardern as leader. He was the only candidate.
Videos show Ardern leaving Parliament on Wednesday to cheers and applause from onlookers. Several lawmakers and staffers had gathered outside, some of whom were clearly emotional as they parted.
Ardern took part in her final official outing as Prime Minister on Tuesday, attending the annual Māori religious festival in the village of Rātana with Hipkins.
“I have experienced so much love, compassion, empathy and kindness at work. That was my predominant experience. So I feel grateful to have played this wonderful role for so many years,” Ardern told reporters at the event.
“I would hate if anyone saw my departure as a negative comment on New Zealand,” she added.
Ardern said the number one piece of advice she gave Hipkins was “you do you.”
“This is for him now. It’s up to him to create his own space, to be his own brand of leader. Actually, there’s no advice I can really give. I can share information, I can share experiences, but that’s for him now,” she said.
“You won’t find me commenting on domestic politics, I’ve had my time,” Ardern said, adding, “I’m ready to be a backbench, I’m ready to be a sister and a mother.”
When Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37, she was New Zealand’s third woman leader and one of the youngest leaders in the world. Within a year, she became only the second world leader to be born into office.
She announced her intention to step down last Thursday, speaking openly about the toll the job has taken and reflecting on the various crises she has faced as head of state, including both the Covid-19 pandemic and the deadly Christchurch terrorist attack in 2019.
“The only interesting angle you’ll find is that after six years I’m human with some big challenges. Politicians are people,” she said. “We give everything we can while we can and then it’s time. And for me it is about time.”