Jacinda Ardern resigns as prime minister of New Zealand: What does it mean for Parliament?

WELLINGTON-On Thursday 19 January 2023, the current Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, announced her intention to resign from the role of Prime Minister by 7 February, 2023. This feature looks at what this means for Parliament.

What will happen at Parliament?

According to New Zealand Parliament, Parliament will continue to operate normally. The first sitting week of 2023 will begin on 14 February.

Changes to the leadership of the Labour Party and to the responsibilities of Ministers (including the Prime Minister) will be formally notified to the Speaker and the House once they have been made.

Until that happens, the status quo remains for arrangements in the House. This includes oral questions, where members sit, and which member of the Government is in charge of each Government bill.

The Prime Minister has indicated that she intends to remain as a member of Parliament until April, so party numbers in the House will not change until then. Find out more about whether a by-election will be held below.

How will the new Prime Minister be chosen?

Under New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, the Governor-General appoints the Prime Minister as the leader of the Government. She must be satisfied that the Government has the support of the House of Representatives.

This means that she must be assured that a majority of MPs elected by the people of New Zealand will support the Government on "confidence votes". These are the most important votes in the House.

It is not necessary for a confidence vote to be held in the House for the Governor‑General to conclude that the Government has the support of the House. Confidence votes happen regularly throughout the year, for example votes related to the Budget. In between these votes, the Government is understood to have the support of the House.

Under our constitutional conventions, the resignation of a Prime Minister in between elections does not change the Government. As the current Government is led by the Labour Party, the leader of the Labour Party is the Prime Minister.

As a result of the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, the Labour Party MPs will need to choose a new leader for their party. The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern has said that the caucus will vote on its next leader on Sunday, 22 January.

After this, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern will visit the Governor-General to formally resign. It is expected that during this visit she will tell the Governor-General who has been chosen as the new leader of the Labour Party, and the Governor-General will appoint that person as the Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern is the 40th person to be Prime Minister of New Zealand, so the new Prime Minister will be the 41st.

What will change in the House after the new Prime Minister is appointed?

The new Prime Minister will take over all of the House responsibilities that come with the position, such as answering oral questions addressed to the Prime Minister. The House will continue to operate normally.

The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern has said that after she steps down as Prime Minister, she will continue to be an MP until April.

This means she can still be in the Chamber and take part in debates when the House is sitting until then.

Will there be a by-election?

The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern has said she will continue to be the electorate MP for Mt Albert until April, to avoid triggering a by-election before the 2023 General Election in October (a by-election is not held within six months of a general election, if 75% of members of the House agree). (New Zealand Parliament)


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