Chris Hipkins set to succeed Jacinda Ardern as prime minister of New Zealand

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Jan. 20 (UPI) — New Zealand’s Labour Party has selected former COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to succeed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern announced her unexpected resignation during a Labour Party retreat Wednesday.

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“This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare for not just another year, but another term — because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that,” Ardern wrote in a Facebook post announcing her resignation. Ardern says she will leave her post no later than Feb. 7.

Ardern was the youngest woman to ever serve as a nation’s head of government at the time of her election as prime minister in 2017.

Hipkins has served in multiple government posts in recent years, including serving as minister for the public service, minister of education, and minster of police.

Hipkins is known for implementing major reforms to New Zealand’s school system during his time as minister of education.

He is also known for a series of public gaffs and apologies.

While serving as COVID-19 Response Minister in 2021, Hipkins blamed an 11-day lockdown in the Northland region on “gang-related sex workers,” who he accused of improperly crossing the border with the Auckland region.

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Information released under the Official Information Act later revealed that Hipkins knew the women were mistakenly blamed.

While serving as public service minister in 2022, Hipkins apologized to former Finance Minister Bill English for comments about his family that suggested they were treated differently in a government contracts incident because of being “white.”

The Labour Party will vote to confirm Hipkins on Sunday.