FACTBOX: The candidates to replace New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern

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By Lewis Jackson and Alasdair Pal

Jan 19 (Reuters) – New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party is looking for a new leader after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation on Thursday.

Ardern said on Thursday she had “no more in the tank” to continue leading the country and would step down no later than early February and not seek re-election.

A Labour Party vote for a new leader will take place on Sunday; the party leader will be prime minister until the next general election. Ardern’s term as leader will conclude no later than Feb. 7 and a general election will be held on Oct. 14.

Here are four Labour party lawmakers who could become prime minister:

CHRIS HIPKINS

First elected to parliament for the Labour Party in 2008, Chris Hipkins became a household name fronting the government’s response to the pandemic after being appointed minister for COVID-19 in November 2020.

Leading a response that was hailed around the world for leaving the country virus free for the first half of 2021, criticism grew over harsh lockdowns as officials struggled to control a Delta outbreak that began in August 2021. The 44-year-old later said quarantine measures should have been scaled back earlier.

Having built a reputation for competence, Hipkins became Minister for Police in mid-2022 amid a crime wave. He is also Minister for Education, Public Service and serves as Leader of the House.

Hipkins held several roles in politics before joining parliament. He was senior adviser to two education ministers and served in the office of former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

KIRI ALLAN

New Zealand’s Minister of Justice, Kiri Allan, 39, would become the country’s first prime minister of Maori descent, as well as the country’s first openly gay leader if elected.

Allan, whose portfolio also includes disaster management, was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer in 2021 on the same day a powerful earthquake struck off the country’s coast, triggering tsunami warnings. She took a leave of absence to seek treatment before returning.

Before entering parliament in 2017, Allan worked as a manager in the agriculture industry, and was heavily involved in new kiwi fruit developments. She has also practised commercial and public law in several areas of the country.

MICHAEL WOOD

Michael Wood, 42, has swiftly scaled Labour party ranks since joining parliament in 2016 after a landslide by-election victory.

Wood was elevated to Minister of Transport and Workplace Safety in 2020 after Jacinda Ardern’s historic election, the best result for the Labour Party in half a century. He added Immigration to his portfolio in a mid-2022 cabinet reshuffle.

Before becoming a member of parliament, he served on Auckland’s city council. He also worked at the finance sector union.

NANAIA MAHUTA

A veteran parliamentarian of 26 years, Nanaia Mahuta became New Zealand’s first female foreign minister after the 2020 election victory.

The 52-year-old has used her role to advocate a diplomatic middle ground for Pacific nations caught between the United States and China, saying late last year that the region is not “altogether comfortable with either superpower”.

With a traditional facial tattoo that celebrates her Maori heritage, Mahuta has long championed Maori causes as a tribal member of Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Manu. She is the daughter of Sir Robert Mahuta, the adopted brother of the late Maori queen and respected Maori elder.

Mahuta has also held the local government portfolio and pushed through controversial legislation to change the ownership structure of the country’s water infrastructure.

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