Barely three years after joining politics, former airline executive Christopher Luxon is set to become the next prime minister of New Zealand. His centre-right National Party in coalition with the right-wing ACT Party secured enough seats to form a new government after last week’s general election.
The final result, however, is still to be announced, as it would take several weeks for the country to count special votes, which are around 20% of the total. As of now, the National Party has won 50 seats and the ACT Party has got 11 seats — together they have secured a majority of just one seat in the 121-seat parliament. The incumbent Labour Party has so far gained just 34 seats.
Once an ice cream and deodorant seller, Luxon has emerged as a leader amid the cost of living crisis and three-decade high inflation in New Zealand. He has vowed to steer the country out of the economic mess and reduce government debt.
“We listened to the people needing interest rates to come down so they can pay their mortgages,” Luxon said in his victory speech on Saturday. “We listened to the people that need tax relief to help pay for the grocery bills.”
Who is Christopher Luxon? What are his political views? How does he plan to tackle New Zealand’s economic woes? We take a look
‘A CEO to his back bootstraps’
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand’s South Island, on July 19, 1970, Luxon grew up in the country’s largest city, Auckland, where he attended state schools. While his father was a sales representative, his mother was a receptionist. Luxon gained a Master of Commerce degree at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch after which he joined the multinational firm Unilever.
He worked for 18 years for the company in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US, before climbing its ranks to become the chief executive of the Canadian operation. Subsequently, he joined Air New Zealand as chief executive officer and led the airline for six years.
A married father with two children, the millionaire former businessman doesn’t drink coffee or alcohol and does not sleep much either, according to a report by The Guardian. He owns several homes across the country and is a Taylor Swift fan.
“Profiles depict him as an intensely disciplined man with a relentless work ethic and a ready stash of aphorisms about management and leadership. He reads political and self-help books; when prompted during a pre-election debate to name his favourite book, Luxon plumped for the current title on his bedside table: W Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis, exploring ‘the mental side of peak performance,’” the report added.
Janet Wilson, a political commentator and former National Party press secretary, told The Guardian, “He’s a CEO to his back bootstraps… It’s all about ‘going forward, KPIs, blue sky thinking.’”
‘One of the most not-liked prime ministers’
Luxon entered parliament in 2020 after defeating Labour’s candidate Naisi Chen by a margin of about 4,000 votes in the general election. The speculation that he would become the next National Party leader began soon after.
On his campaign trail for the 2023 general election, Luxon presented himself as “positive, inoffensive and ambitious”, The Guardian report said. Although he did reasonably well against the current PM Chris Hipkins in television debates, the former business faced criticism for speaking about Christianity in a country where almost half the people say they have no religion.
Luxon has had to defend stances such as personally opposing abortion. He has assured to maintaining legal abortion and supported same-sex marriage.
According to media reports, in the lead-up to the elections, Luxon (and Hipkin) struggled to connect with the voters, compared to New Zealand’s former PM Jacinda Ardern.
“Data indicates that Chris Luxon is probably one of the most not-liked prime ministers that we’ve had. I imagine he’ll get a bit of a honeymoon bump but he definitely does face some challenges around things like likeability and trust,” Lara Greaves, a political scientist at Victoria University of Wellington, told Bloomberg.
A promise to make New Zealand ‘better’
In his victory speech, Luxon said the country could be “so, so much better than it is”. He added, “Together we will make this an even better country.”
To pull New Zealand out of its economic crisis, the future prime minister has pledged tax cuts and drastic slashes to government spending. He has also promised to reduce the cost of living and improve healthcare and education.
“Regardless of ethnicity, and whether our families arrived generations ago or are new migrants, we all share an interest in living in a safe, stable country that celebrates fairness and wants the very best for every New Zealander,” he added in his speech.