Bill English has become the likely successor to John Key after two challengers pulled out of the race for premier. English is almost certain to be confirmed in the role at a caucus meeting of his party on Monday.
A special caucus meeting of New Zealand's ruling National Party next Monday seems almost certain to confirm Finance Minister Bill English as party leader and the country's new prime minister, after two rivals for the job withdrew their nominations on Thursday.
English, a farmer with degrees in commerce and literature, was named as preferred successor by former Prime Minister John Key as he resigned for personal reasons in a surprise move earlier this week.
Police Minister Judith Collins and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman both pulled out of the race after it became clear that 54-year-old English had the necessary support to win the caucus vote, saying they were fully behind his bid.
Media reports had earlier said that more than half of caucus members backed the finance minister, who is also deputy prime minister.
Healthy economic outlook
English has been in parliament since 1990. He has already once headed the National Party, though with little success. Under his leadership, it scored its worst-ever election defeat in 2002. Since 2006, he has held the position of deputy leader.
As finance minister, he leaves the country's economy in good shape, with growth of around 3.0 percent forecast for the next five years, falling unemployment and rising incomes.
Key, who recently marked his eighth anniversary as prime minister, has been a widely popular leader. He resigned on Monday, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife of 32 years, Bronagh.
tj/kms (dpa, AFP)