WELLINGTON — A teary-eyed Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday made her last speech as the Prime Minister of New Zealand with successor Chris Hipkins beside her.
Bidding an emotional farewell on her last day as prime minister, Adern spoke of the kindness and empathy New Zealanders have shown her, but said she was ready to be a sister and a mother.
The outgoing Labor leader said her departure should not be viewed as a negative commentary on New Zealand, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the greatest privilege of my life,” Ardern told the gathering in a speech.
“I have experienced such love, compassion, empathy and kindness when I’ve been in this job, that has been my predominant experience,” Ardern said while visiting the Ratana temple with Hipkins.
Ardern said she is not going anywhere and will still be the MP for Mt Albert, but will be away from the centre of politics.
She will resign on Wednesday and be replaced by the new Labour party leader, Chris Hipkins.
Hipkins, the country’s former Covid minister, was the only person nominated to take over as Labour Party leader. He was first elected to parliament in 2008.
Hipkins said he and Ardern have reflected on the last few years, adding “it’s a bittersweet moment”.
In her shock announcement on January 19, Ardern — who at 37 became the youngest female head of government in the world when she took office in 2017 — said she did not have “enough in the tank” to lead and added that the past five-and-a-half years had been the “most fulfilling” of her life.
However, she added that leading the country during “crisis” had been difficult — with the Covid pandemic, Christchurch mosque shootings and White Island volcanic eruption taking place during her premiership.
Inflation and increasing social inequality saw Ardern’s popularity fall to all-time lows, according to opinion polls.
The polls also suggested public approval of the country’s Labour Party was similarly low.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s next general election will be held on October 14. — ( Inputs from agencies added)