During her time as Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern won international acclaim for her handling of a terror attack on two mosques and for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday made a shock announcement that she will resign next month, saying she no longer has “enough in the tank” to remain as leader. She will not seek re-election, Jacinda Ardern also clarified.
“I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said at a meeting of members of her Labour Party.
“I just don’t have enough in the tank for another four years.”
Addressing a news conference, Adern, holding back tears, said that it had been a tough five and a half years as prime minister and that she was only human and needed to step aside, reports Reuters.
“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so called ‘real’ reason was… The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human,” she continued.
Ardern became prime minister in a coalition government in 2017 and then led her centre-left Labour Party to a comprehensive victory in an election three years later.
During her time as leader, she won international acclaim for her handling of a terror attack on two mosques and the Covid-19 pandemic, and became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.
But her party and personal popularity, often referred to as “Jacindamania”, have dropped in recent domestic polls amid escalating inflation and fears of a rising crime rate.
In her first public appearance since parliament went into its summer recess a month ago, she told Labour’s annual caucus retreat that she had hoped to find the energy to continue as leader during the break, “but I have not been able to do that”.
The next general election will be held on Saturday, October 14, Ardern revealed in her announcement in Napier on the country’s eastern coast. The prime minister said she would continue to serve as an electorate MP until then.
Although recent polls indicate a coalition of the centre-right National and Act parties will win the election, Ardern said that was not the reason for her resignation.
“I am not leaving because I believe we cannot win the next election, but because I believe we can and will,” she said.
“I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead — and also when you’re not.”
Ardern said her resignation would take effect no later than February 7, and that the Labour caucus would vote on a new leader in three days.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said he would not be putting his name forward.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised Ardern as a leader who has “shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength.” He said she demonstrated that empathy and insight “are powerful leadership qualities”.
Ardern’s party has been battling declining trust in government, a deteriorating economic situation, and a resurgent conservative opposition. The stress has been evident recently, with Ardern showing a rare lapse of poise last month when she was unwittingly caught on a microphone calling an opposition politician an “arrogant prick”, reports AFP.
A ruling New Zealand Labour Party vote for a new leader will take place on Sunday; the party leader will be prime minister until the next general election. Ardern’s term as leader will conclude no later than Febeuary 7 and a general election will be held on October 14.
Ardern said she believed Labour would win the upcoming election.
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who also serves as finance minister, said in a statement he would not seek to stand as the next Labour leader.
Political commentator Ben Thomas said Ardern’s announcement was a huge surprise as polls still ranked her as the country’s preferred prime minister even though support for her party had fallen from the stratospheric heights seen during the 2020 election.
Thomas said that there was not a clear successor.
Ardern said she was not stepping down because the job was hard, but because she believed others could do a better job.
She made a point of telling her daughter Neve that she was looking forward to being there when she started school this year and told her longtime partner Clarke Gayford that it was time they married.
Ardern’s initial election made a big splash on the global stage because of her gender and youth, coining the phrase “Jacinda-mania”.
Her empathetic leadership style was cemented by her response to the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019 that killed 51 people injured 40.
Ardern swiftly labelled the attacks “terrorism” and wore a hijab as she met with the Muslim community a day after the attack, telling them the whole country was “united in grief”. She promised and delivered major gun law reform within a month.
“Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday.
Ardern won plaudits across the political spectrum for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the country face some of the strictest measures globally but also resulted in one of the lowest death tolls. — Agencies
Cover photo (file): Jacinda Ardern wore a hijab as she met with the Muslim community a day after the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019 that killed 51 people injured 40.