New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that she would tender her resignation within weeks, adding that she does not feel energized to seek re-election in the October election.
Speaking at a news conference, Ardern said her term would end on February 7, when she expects a new Labor prime minister to be sworn in, although “depending on the process, that could be sooner.”
“The decision was mine,” Ella Ardern said. “Leading a country is the most privileged job someone can have, but also the most challenging. It can’t and shouldn’t be done unless you have a full tank, plus a little in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that can arise.”
“I don’t have enough in the tank anymore to do the job justice,” she added.
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When Ardern became prime minister in 2017, at 37, she was New Zealand’s third female prime minister and one of the world’s youngest leaders. Within a year, she gave birth while in office, becoming the second world leader to do so.
She was re-elected to a second term in 2020, a victory that was fueled by her government’s “hit hard and soon” approach to the covid-19 pandemic, which saw New Zealand impose some of the world’s strictest border rules, separating families and closing the doors to almost all foreigners for almost two years.
On Thursday, Ardern spoke candidly about the toll work has taken on his life and reflected on the various crises his government has faced, including the pandemic and the 2019 Christchurch terror attack, which killed 51 people at two mosques. .
The attack was a defining moment of Ardern’s leadership, and his quick response won widespread praise. He quickly introduced reforms to the gun law, wore a hijab to show his respect for the Muslim community and said publicly that he would never speak the name of the suspected attacker.
The president indicated that, at the end of 2022, she took time to assess whether she had everything she needed to continue as prime minister. And ultimately, she concluded that it was time to step aside.
However, she assured: “I am not quitting because (the job) has been difficult, if that was the case I probably would have left within two months of starting.” Ardern served five and a half years in office.
“The only interesting angle you will find is that after six years of great challenges, I am human. We politicians are human,” she said. “We give everything we can for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she added.
Ardern also highlighted the accomplishments of her tenure, including legislation on climate change and child poverty. “I wouldn’t want these last five and a half years to just be about challenges. For me, it’s also about progress,” she said.
The president said the early announcement will allow for planning and preparation by government agencies and political parties.
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General elections are scheduled for October 14.
Bryce Edwards, a political scientist at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, said Ardern’s resignation was “shocking” but not a complete surprise.
“She is celebrated around the world but her performance has plummeted in the polls,” she said.
meteoric political rise
A former DJ and inactive Mormon, Ardern was the closest thing New Zealand had to a rock star politician: she drew crowds at mass rallies and every move of hers received extensive press coverage. She enjoyed particular support among the young, in a wave dubbed “Jacindamania” during her first term.
That popularity has spread abroad, with Ardern gracing the covers of Vogue and Time magazines, and hosting American television personality Stephen Colbert at her home in suburban Auckland.
But while Ardern has won fans around the world for her fresh and empathetic approach, her popularity has waned in New Zealand in recent years, with some critics arguing that she has done little to deliver the transformative government she promised when she was chosen for the first time.
Several polls from late 2022 showed a drop in support for Ardern and her Labor Party, with some ratings at the lowest level since she took office in 2017, according to CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand.
Edwards, the political analyst, said Ardern’s decision to withdraw might save him a disappointing election result.
“Leaving now is the best thing you can do for your reputation… you’ll get away with it instead of losing the election,” he said.
Edwards said there was “no one obvious” to replace her, although possible candidates include Police and Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who has a strong relationship with Ardern, and Justice Minister Kiri Allan.
Ardern said she doesn’t have any firm plans for what she will do next, but she hopes to spend more time with her family again. “Arguably they have sacrificed the most of all of us,” Ardern said.
Turning to her son and her fiancé, she said: “For Neve, Mum can’t wait to be there when you start school this year, and for Clarke, let’s finally get married.”
Ardern has been engaged to television presenter Clarke Gayford since 2019.
A woman on the world stage
Ardern earned a reputation as a trailblazer while she was in office, speaking frequently on gender equality and women’s rights.
For example, when she announced her pregnancy in 2018, she highlighted women’s ability to balance work with motherhood.
“I’m not the first woman to multitask, I’m not the first woman to work and have a baby, I know these are special circumstances, but there will be many women who will have done this long before me,” she said at the time, with Gayford assuming the role of the stay-at-home dad.
After giving birth, she and Gayford brought their 3-month-old baby to the United Nations General Assembly, and Ardern told CNN she wanted to “create a path for other women” and help other workplaces. be more open to such situations.
In a 2021 interview with CNN, she reflected on her rise to power, saying: “It wasn’t that long ago that being a woman in politics was something very rare.”
The announcement of her impending resignation on Thursday sparked a wave of support on social media, including from other political leaders, with many highlighting the legacy she is leaving for women in politics.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted praise for Ardern, saying that she “has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength” and that she has been “a great friend to me.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong also sent her best wishes to Ardern, saying she was “a source of inspiration to me and many others.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared a photo on Twitter of him and Ardern walking together, thanking him for her friendship and her “empathic, compassionate, strong and consistent leadership over the past few years.”
“The difference that she has made is immeasurable,” she added.