John Keys chosen successor must still face party vote on Monday, but with support of most National MPs, transition looks likely to be a formality
Bill English looks certain to be New Zealands next prime minister.
The deputy leader of the Nationals has secured the public support of 30 of the partys MPs on Thursday a majority and, following the withdrawal of two challengers, stands unopposed for the leadership.
English had received the backing of John Key, the prime minister since 2008, who announced his resignation on Monday. English had served as Keys finance minister in three terms of government.
Jonathan Coleman, the health minister, and Judith Collins, the police minister, had also expressed interest in the leadership. But Collins pulled out of the race on Thursday afternoon and told her supporters to back English.
As far as Im concerned, he has won, 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.
Coleman followed suit after the 30 MPs needed to appoint the new leader had publicly expressed support for English.
Coleman said he had congratulated the next prime minister of New Zealand when he told English he was removing himself from contention.
The decision was to be made at a meeting of the National caucus on Monday next week, which now looks to be only a formality.
English told reporters at the press gallery in Wellington that he was sorting out his leadership team, and confirmation of the new leadership would come on Monday, when the caucus would be given an opportunity to discuss the leadership.
It doesnt look like therell be any contestants, he said with a smile, adding: This has all happened pretty fast. Its really only been three days since John Key stepped down. I havent really had any time to reflect on it, to be honest.
English said he had yet to fully grasp the reality of leadership, but said Key was a unique politician and the transition would inevitably lead to changes in the National party and its governance.
On Thursday, David Farrar, a political commentator with long-time affiliations to National, noted on Twitter that English had secured the majority .