New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English gains majority support to become next PM

New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English gains majority support to become next PM

New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English gains majority support to become next PM

Updated 8 December 2016, 14:35 AEDT

Finance Minister Bill English emerges as New Zealand's likely next leader after his closest competitor for the prime ministership drops out of the race and he gains majority cabinet support.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English is the overwhelming favourite to become the country's next prime minister, with a majority of National Party MPs giving him public support.

Key Points:

  • New Zealand Prime Minister to be decided on December 12
  • Police Minister Judith Collins concedes that Bill English has the support
  • Outgoing Prime Minister John Key has lead the country for 8 years

Mr English now has the support of 31 party MPs out of the 59-member cabinet, while there is yet to be any public declaration of support for rival Jonathan Coleman, the Health Minister.

Police Minister Judith Collins has withdrawn from the leadership race, and says she now supports Mr English.

"As far as I'm concerned, he has won," Ms Collins told reporters in Wellington.

"I would like to say to my supporters that we should get in behind him and support Bill as the leader."

The snap race for the top job was prompted by Prime Minister John Key's sudden resignation on Monday.

Mr Key has been New Zealand's leader since 2008, heading up the National Party, over a period marked by political stability and economic reform.

Mr Coleman, the only other candidate, said he was not conceding, but the more junior lawmaker is considered unlikely to get enough support to pose a real challenge.

Mr English further shored up support by naming senior cabinet minister Steven Joyce, the Minister for Economic Development, as his finance ministry replacement if he wins the top job.

"If I become the leader that will be the case," Mr English told reporters.

"I have worked with Steven for the last eight years. He has got a fantastic set of skills."

Mr Joyce had been considered a potential threat to Mr English.

The party meets on Monday to vote on a new leader and deputy.

Reuters