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Jacinda Ardern bids emotional farewell as Chris Hipkins becomes New Zealand Prime Minister

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CNN

New Zealand welcomed a new prime minister on Wednesday, six days after Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation ahead of the next election.

Chris Hipkins, 44, was sworn in at an investiture ceremony in the capital Wellington on Wednesday.

Hipkins was first elected to parliament in 2008 and led the country’s Covid-19 policies in 2020. Before becoming prime minister, he served as education minister, police minister, civil service minister and House Leader.

Hipkins was unanimously endorsed by the ruling Labor Party on Sunday to succeed Ardern as its leader. He was the only candidate.

Videos show Ardern leaving parliament on Wednesday to cheers and applause from onlookers. Several lawmakers and staff had gathered outside, some of whom were clearly emotional as they said goodbye.

Ardern attended his final official outing as prime minister on Tuesday, joining the annual Maori religious festival in the village of Rātana with Hipkins.

“I have experienced so much love, compassion, empathy and kindness in the job. This has been my defining experience, so I leave with a sense of gratitude for playing this wonderful role for so many years” , Ardern told reporters at the event.

“I would hate for anyone to take my departure as a negative comment on New Zealand,” she added.

Ardern said the most important piece of advice she gave Hipkins was “you do it.”

“It’s for him now. It’s up to him to carve out his own space, to be his own kind of leader. In fact, there’s no advice I can really give. I can share information , I can share experiences, but this is now for him,” she said.

“You won’t find me commenting on domestic politics, I’ve had my time,” Ardern said, adding, “I’m ready to be a backbencher, I’m ready to be a sister and a mother.”

When Ardern became prime minister in 2017 at the age of 37, she was New Zealand’s third female leader and one of the youngest female leaders in the world. Within a year, she had become only the second world leader to give birth in office.

She announced her intention to step down last Thursday, speaking candidly about the consequences of her job and reflecting on the various crises she faced leading the nation, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the deadly Christchurch terrorist attack in 2019.

“The only interesting angle you will find is that after six years of great challenges, I am human. Politicians are human,” she said. “We give everything we can as long as we we can, then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.

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