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English has numbers to be next NZ PM

AAP logoAAP 8/12/2016 Karen Sweeney

New Zealand's Finance Minister Bill English will be the country's next prime minister.

His challengers Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman both conceded defeat after it became clear English almost certainly had the numbers to win the leadership.

Support for the deputy on Thursday reached the 30 votes he requires to guarantee a majority of the 59-member caucus in Monday's leadership vote to replace John Key.

After considering the numbers, Coleman announced late in the afternoon that he had called English to congratulate him on becoming prime minister.

"I'm going to be supporting him 100 per cent because it's absolutely vital that the party comes together, gets on with the job of winning the next election which I believe we will win and then support Bill as prime minister through a fourth term," he said.

He said the party was "completely unified" behind English and he was happy with how he had come out of the process, despite his obvious leadership ambitions.

"I'm not actually disappointed because I believe in life if you're going to win you've got to be prepared for the alternative result," he said.

Collins earlier withdrew herself from the race and threw her support behind English while urging her supporters to do the same.

"It is clear to me that 50 per cent of caucus support Bill English as the leader and therefore as far as I am concerned he has won," she said.

Collins wouldn't admit to disappointment about the briefness of her candidacy, only saying it had been an interesting process and good for caucus to feel they had influenced the decision.

English is yet to endorse either Transport Minister Simon Bridges or Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett, who are both confirmed candidates to be his deputy.

English went past the majority threshold early on Thursday afternoon when a flurry of caucus members backed him to succeed John Key, who will step down after Monday's vote.

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