New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern announces she will resign next month
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she will resign from her post next month.
Holding back tears, she told reporters that February 7 will be her last day in the top job, with a general election called for October 14.
‘I am entering now my sixth year in office, and for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,’ Ms Ardern said during an emotional news conference.
‘I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.’
It is unclear who will take over as prime minister until the election.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson announced that he won’t contest the leadership of the Labour Party, throwing the competition open.
Ms Ardern burst onto the global scene in 2017 when she became the world’s youngest female head of government at the age of 37.
Riding a wave of ‘Jacinda-mania’, she campaigned passionately for women’s rights, and an end to child poverty and economic inequality in the country.
Eight months after being elected premier she became the second leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto.
Many saw her as part of wave of progressive female leaders, including Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Ms Ardern faced on of the darkest days in New Zealand’s history when a white supremacist gunman stormed two mosques in Christchurch and slaughtered 51 people.
She was widely praised for the way she embraced the survivors and New Zealand’s Muslim community in the aftermath.
‘Her universal call for human unity with compassion made me cry with joy then, and it makes me cry now,’ said Farid Ahmed, survivor and husband of a Christchurch attack victim.
‘Her kindness, wisdom and efforts for a peaceful world have been a remarkable example for world leaders,’ he said. ‘I understand that she needs rest, and I wish her all the best in her life.’
Ms 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.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday: ‘Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength.
‘She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities.’
Ms Ardern was lauded around the world for her country’s initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic after New Zealand managed keep the virus out for months.
But she was forced to abandon that zero-tolerance strategy as more contagious variants spread and vaccines became widely available.
She has since faced growing anger at home from those who opposed coronavirus mandates and rules.
A protest last year that began on Parliament’s grounds lasted for more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and setting fires to tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave.
The heated emotions around the coronavirus debate led to a level of vitriol directed at Ms Ardern that had rarely been seen by other New Zealand leaders.
This year, she was forced to cancel an annual barbecue she hosts due to security fears.
Ms Ardern had been facing tough re-election prospects.
Her liberal Labour Party were voted back in two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.
‘I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job,’ she said.
‘I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not.’
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 long-time partner Clarke Gayford that it was time they married.
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