SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday named finance minister Grant Robertson as deputy prime minister in her new government after Labour Party deputy leader Kelvin Davis ruled himself out from standing.
Robertson, who will continue as finance minister, will replace Winston Peters of Labour’s previous coalition partner New Zealand First, while Ardern said Davis wanted to focus on making a difference for the country’s Maori people.
A thumping election win gave Ardern the freedom to form the first single-party government since New Zealand adopted a German-style proportional voting system in 1996.
Her new ministry, however, will still include two senior Green Party members, in roles outside of cabinet, with coalitions the norm in the Pacific nation of five million as parties look to build consensus.
Ardern said her government’s top priorities will be to drive economic recovery from COVID-19 while continuing to shield the country from the virus, which has largely been kept at bay.
“The next three years will be very challenging for New Zealand. With the global outlook worsening we won’t be immune to the ongoing impact COVID is having around the world,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington.
Ardern’s popularity, boosted by her leadership in tackling the coronavirus, helped Labour win 64 of the 120 seats in the country’s unicameral parliament – the party’s biggest election victory in half a century.
New Zealand has so far reported 25 deaths and just over 1,600 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, far lower than many other developed countries.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Richard Pullin)