Jacinda Ardern Set to Become New Prime Minister of New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern is poised to become the new prime minister of New Zealand.
Marty Melville/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A minor party holding the balance of power in New Zealand threw its support behind 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern’s bid to become prime minister on Thursday, ending the center-right National Party’s nine-year grip on power.

Ms. Ardern, the leader of the Labour Party, will take over from Prime Minister Bill English, reversing Labour’s long-flagging fortunes and giving the country its youngest leader in more than 150 years.

Ms. Ardern’s ascension represents a remarkable rise for a woman who just months ago became Labour’s youngest leader ever, setting off “Jacindamania” among the party’s followers. Unconventional and described by colleagues as intensely focused, she has defied the norms of New Zealand politics and refused to be pinned down on whether she has considered having children, saying no male politician would be forced to answer that question.

Ms. Ardern said Thursday that she believed in building an economy that worked “for all New Zealanders” while working to protect New Zealand’s environment and clean up its waterways.

The announcement that a coalition had been formed came after a tumultuous campaign in which the National Party won 56 seats — more than any other party — but failed to capture the 61 needed for a parliamentary majority to govern in New Zealand’s political system.

In the Sept. 23 election, the center-left Labour Party won 46 seats, and its left-leaning allies the Greens won eight, giving the left bloc a total of 54.

The close result set off a scramble between the two groups to win the favor of New Zealand First, a populist party that won nine seats — enough to put either National, or the Greens and Labour, over the line in forming a government.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Charlotte Graham