New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation in a shock announcement as she confirmed national elections for October this year.
At the party’s annual caucus meeting Thursday, Ardern said she “didn’t have enough left in the tank” to get the job done. “It’s time,” she said.
“I’m leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility of knowing when you are the right person to lead and when you are not. I know what this job needs. And I know I don’t have enough left in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple,” she said.
Her term as prime minister will end no later than February 7, but she will remain an MP until elections later this year.
“I am human, politicians are human. We give everything we can while we can. And then it is time. And for me, it’s about time,” she said. Ardern said she pondered over the summer break whether she had the energy to continue in the role and concluded she didn’t.
Ardern became the world’s youngest leader when she was elected prime minister in 2017 at the age of 37. She has guided New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic and major disasters, including the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch and the White Island volcanic eruption.
“These have been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life. But it also had its challenges — alongside an agenda focused on housing, child poverty and climate change, we encountered a … domestic terror event, a major natural disaster, a global pandemic and an economic crisis,” she said.
When asked how she would like the New Zealanders to remember her leadership, Ardern said “as someone who has always tried to be kind”.
“I hope I leave New Zealanders believing that they can be kind but strong, sensitive but determined, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader — one who knows when it’s time to go,” Ardern said.
Over the past year, Ardern has faced a significant increase in threats of violence, particularly from conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine groups angry at the country’s vaccination regulations and Covid-19 lockdown. However, she said the increased risk associated with the job was not behind her decision to resign.
“I don’t want to give the impression that the adversities you face in politics are the reason people drop out. Yes, it has an impact. We’re human, but that wasn’t the basis of my decision,” she said.
Ardern said she has no plans for the future other than spending more time with her family.
She thanked her partner Clarke Gayford and their daughter Neve, who she gave birth to during her tenure, as “the ones who sacrificed most of all of us”.
“To Neve: Mom is looking forward to seeing you start school this year. And to Clarke – let’s finally get married.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement comes as New Zealand enters a hard-fought election year, with the vote date announced for October 14. Polls in recent months had placed the Ardern-led Labor Party slightly behind the opposition National.
Ardern said her decline in the polls was not behind the decision to walk.
“I’m not leaving because I don’t think we can win the election, but because I believe we can and will, and we need fresh shoulders for this challenge,” she said.
It’s not yet clear who will replace Ardern, however: Deputy leader and Treasury Secretary Grant Robertson, who would be considered the front-runner for the role, said Thursday he would not seek the position. In a statement, he said: “I am not standing as a candidate for leadership of the Labor Party.”
The Labor caucus now has seven days to find out whether a new candidate has more than two-thirds of the support within the caucus to become the new leader and prime minister. In three days, on January 22nd, there will be a caucus vote for a new chairman. If no one reaches that threshold of support, the leadership contest goes to the broader Labor constituency.
Jacinda Ardern showed the world how to lead with intellect and strength.
She has shown that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities.
Jacinda was a passionate advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me. pic.twitter.com/QJ64mNCJMI
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 19, 2023
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Ardern, saying she “showed the world how to lead with intellect and strength”.
“She showed that empathy and insight are strong leadership qualities,” he said.