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Prime Minister

'Jacinda-mania' triumphs ... a month after the election: Labour leader takes charge in New Zealand

Populist ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters has backed Ardern – after stringing the media along all day.

NEW ZEALAND’S CENTRE-LEFT opposition leader Jacinda Ardern is poised to become prime minister in a remarkable rise to power, after populist Winston Peters backed the 37-year-old to form a government.

Peters’ decision, which came after an election almost a month ago ended deadlocked, gives her Labour Party the numbers to form a coalition government with Peters’ New Zealand First and the Greens.

“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,” Peters told reporters.

New Zealand Election Jacinda Ardern Mark Baker Mark Baker

The 72-year-old ‘kingmaker’ was full of praise for Ardern, who revived Labour’s fortunes when she became party leader just weeks out from the election.

“She exhibited extraordinary talent in the campaign itself from a very hopeless position,” he said.

Ardern was not widely known outside political circles at the time but soon connected with voters, prompting a bout of ‘Jacinda-mania’ that lifted Labour’s popularity 20 points.

Crowds treated her like a rock star at shopping malls and universities, while analysts compared her to Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

While Labour and the Greens have to formally approve the coalition, Ardern will become New Zealand’s youngest leader since 1856 and only the third female prime minister of the nation of 4.6 million.

The result will be a bitter blow to outgoing conservative Prime Minister Bill English, who ran an unexpectedly strong campaign to win 44.4% of the vote, far higher than Labour’s 36%.

RNZ / YouTube

It is the first time since New Zealand adopted proportional voting in 1996 that the party which claimed the largest slice of the vote has failed to form government.

Peters had promised to reveal his choice today but had already missed several self-imposed deadlines to settle the issue.

He stretched the announcement out as long as possible, appearing before reporters early in the afternoon to say he still had not made a decision.

“It’s seriously difficult because there are pros and cons for every part of this decision we’ve got to make,” he said before heading off for lunch.

He said the talks went down to the wire, with new information arriving throughout the day, finally addressing a media conference at 7pm (6am our time).

© – AFP, 2017

Read: Australia’s deputy prime minister may not be eligible for parliament due to dual citizenship >

Read: Greens co-leader in New Zealand resigns after admitting to welfare fraud >

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