NZ gets youngest PM Jacinda Ardern


International desk, October 19: New Zealand is set for a centre-left coalition government led by Labour head Jacinda Ardern.Ms Ardern has been opposition leader for the last three months. At 37, she is set to be the country’s youngest prime minister since 1856.

Her Labour Party came second in September’s election, where no party was able to secure a majority.

They are now tipped for power after the small New Zealand First party agreed to join them in government.

The new coalition will also be supported by the Green Party.

Jacinda Ardern has already proved she can run a good campaign and broker a political deal – but now she faces new challenges.

High on her to-do list will be convincing the majority of New Zealanders who didn’t vote for her that the party which came second should be in power.

There are also bridges to build with the Australian government – which accused the New Zealand Labour party of conspiring against it in the current dual-nationals crisis.

But the biggest challenge could be keeping her new coalition on the tracks.

Her likely Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is known to hold a real dislike for the Green Party, on which the government will depend to get its policies through.

Arguably, now is when the real hard work beings.

Speaking to reporters after the coalition deal was announced, Ms Ardern said: “I feel extraordinarily honoured and privileged to be in the position to form a government with Labour at the lead.”

She said the government would work hard to deliver on its campaign promises, and that New Zealand First would have four cabinet positions and one parliamentary under-secretary.

Correspondents say the new coalition is likely to mean a significant cut to immigration quotas and new controls on foreign ownership of property.

Bill English became prime minister in 2016 when his predecessor John Key unexpectedly resigned.

He had promised voters experience and reliable economic management.

Source: Agencies