Jacinda Ardern is set to become the next prime minister of New Zealand, capping a spectacular rise to power just months after taking control of the opposition Labour party in the middle of an election campaign.
Ms Ardern, 37, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, will become one of her country’s youngest prime ministers and the third woman to lead a government after winning the support on Thursday of the nationalist New Zealand First party headed by Winston Peters.
A final coalition deal is expected to be ratified by the Green party on Thursday, ushering in the first Labour-led coalition in almost a decade.
“We aspire to be a government for all New Zealanders and one that will seize the opportunity to build a fairer, better New Zealand,” said Ms Ardern.
She will head a centre-left government that is likely to refocus economic policy around delivering public services, toughening immigration and foreign ownership rules.
New Zealand’s currency was down as much as 1.6 per cent against the greenback on Thursday, following weeks of negotiations, at one stage as low as $0.704.
Ms Ardern said the coalition would seek to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which had been strongly supported by the previous National-led government. It would also focus on tackling a shortage of affordable housing, delivering public services and protecting the environment.
Bronwyn Hayward, head of politics at the University of Canterbury, said: “The TPP has been quite a divisive issue in New Zealand and Labour will focus on renegotiating aspects related to foreign ownership of housing and land, as well as investor dispute mechanisms.”
The government was likely to ban offshore ownership of housing and seek to reduce immigration, which is running at record levels.
A planned review of the Reserve Bank Act could result in an expanded role for the central bank, said Shamubeel Eaqub, an economist with Sense Partners. This could see the Reserve Bank of New Zealand “being directed to focus on not just inflation, but also much greater priority on exchange rate volatility and full employment”, Mr Eaqub said.
Mr Peters, the leader of the minor party that was left holding the balance of power after the September 23 election failed to deliver a clear winner, said people had voted for change.
The National party, which had led a centrist government since 2008, won 56 seats in the 120-seat parliament, Labour 46, New Zealand First nine, the Greens eight and the rightwing ACT one.
Mr Peters has since been in talks with Bill English, the National party leader and incumbent prime minister, and the Labour leader.
Ms Ardern’s rise followed a whirlwind election campaign that led to a Phoenix-like resurgence for Labour.”
Grant Duncan, associate professor at Massey University, said: “Ardern is an outwardly warm, engaging and intelligent person that has tapped into a desire for change.
“But she is also capable of being tough and her remarkable rise shows that you underestimate her at your peril.”
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