Jacinda Ardern will become New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister at just the age of 37 after striking a coalition deal with one of the country’s political grandees.
It marks a remarkable rise because Ardern wasn’t even the leader of the opposition Labour Party two months before election day until disastrous poll results saw her predecessor fall on his sword.
She finally was confirmed as Prime Minister on Wednesday after Winston Peters, whose New Zealand First party won just 7.2 per cent of the vote, announced he would join a coalition with Labour the the Green party to form a Government.
Peters, whose block of nine seats under New Zealand’s proportional representation system made him kingmaker, had spent over a week negotiating with the National Party and Labour.
National had spent three terms in office and won 44.4 per cent of the vote and 56 seats, compared to Labour’s 36.9 per cent and 46 seats.
The bloc of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens has 63 seats, just edging over the majority threshold of 61.
Ms Ardern, labelled a political novice by her detractors, became the youngest ever leader of the Labour Party just seven weeks before the election.
She is New Zealand’s third female prime minister, after National’s Jenny Shipley and Ardern’s own mentor, Helen Clark, who each entered office at 45 and 49, respectively.
The incoming Prime Minister is New Zealand’s second youngest elected leader. Edward Stafford was 37 years and 40 days when he took office in 1856. Ms Arden is 37y 85d.
Ms Ardern said she wasn’t sure she had won Mr Peters’ backing until the veteran politician made his announcement on Wednesday evening New Zealand time.
Speaking to reporters in Wellington, Mr Peters said: “We had a choice to make…for a modified status quo or for change.
“That’s why, in the end, we chose a coalition government of New Zealand First with the New Zealand Labour Party.”
Ms Ardern’s major campaign pledges include marking tertiary education free, decriminalising abortion, cutting immigration and reducing child poverty.
Mr Peters; decision to back a Labour government ends nearly a decade of National rule.
Following her success, Ms Ardern said: “I thank the New Zealand First party and leader Winston Peters for agreeing in principle to a coalition agreement with Labour.
“The negotiations have been courteous, constructive and robust. Throughout, we have focused on our shared values and the policies that can take New Zealand forward.
“We are both committed to forming a strong and durable government that can deal with the many challenges this country faces.”
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