Jacinda Ardern resigns as New Zealand PM after 6 years in office
Ardern's term as prime minister will conclude no later than February 7 but she will continue as an MP until the election this year
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced that she will step down next month after being in power for six years.
At the party’s first caucus meeting of the year, Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to lead the nation. “It’s time,” she added.
Ardern, who became the youngest female head of government in the world when she was elected Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37, said that the six "challenging" years as PM had taken a toll on her, leading to burnout.
"This has been the most fulfilling experience of my life but it has also had its challenges. The decisions that have had to be made has been continual and they have been waiting. But I am not leaving because it was hard, I’m 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. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple," she said addressing the media.
"It's one thing to lead your country through peace time, it's another to lead them through crises. These events have been taxing because of the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them. There's never really been a moment where it's ever felt like we were just governing," she continued. She emphasised that she was stepping down keeping in mind the nation's best interests.
Her term as prime minister will conclude no later than 7 February but she will continue as an MP until New Zealand's general election to be held on October 14 – which will determine her replacement.
In her address to the media, Ardern said she was not resigning because she believed Labour could not win the election, but because she thought it would. "We need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge," she said.
The 42-year-old also listed her government's achievements on climate change, social housing and reducing child poverty as ones she was particularly proud of. She added that she hoped New Zealanders would remember her "as someone who always tried to be kind".
"I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader - one who knows when it's time to go. I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time," she concluded holding back tears.
The general public of New Zealand and national news reports have defined her resignation as a "surprise", even a "shock".
In India, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh on Thursday hailed Ardern by saying that "Indian politics needs more like her".
"Legendary cricket commentator, Vijay Merchant once said about retiring at the peak of his career: Go when people ask why is he going instead of why isn't he going. Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern has just said she is quitting following Merchant's maxim," Ramesh tweeted.
Ardern's empathetic handling of the Christchurch mosque mass-shootings, the White Island volcanic eruption and her health-driven response to the Covid-19 pandemic led her to become an international icon and she received worldwide praise as one of the only female heads of state.
However, post-Covid Ardern was faced with rising inflation and mounting criticism particularly from the far-right of the nation. She has faced death threats and violent messaging, from conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine groups infuriated by the country’s strict vaccine mandates and lockdowns.
Who will replace Ardern remains unclear. The deputy leader and finance minister, Grant Robertson, who was being considered a frontrunner, said on Thursday that he would not be seeking the position.“I am not putting myself forward to be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour party,” he confirmed.