She had promised “relentless positivity” as New Zealand’s prime minister. But five and a half years after taking office, it was an exhausted Jacinda Ardern who announced her resignation on Thursday.
• Also read: New Zealand: Prime Minister Ardern announces her resignation in February
The 42-year-old Labor MEP, who was elected Prime Minister in October 2017, has not been spared during her first term: the worst terrorist attack on record in New Zealand, a deadly volcanic eruption and, like elsewhere, the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“These five and a half years were the most fulfilling of my life. But there were also challenges to overcome,” Ms Ardern said on Thursday.
“I know what this job demands and I know I don’t have enough energy left to do it justice. It’s that simple,” she added, announcing her retirement.
Elected to lead the country at just 37, she became New Zealand’s youngest prime minister since 1856 and a symbol of liberalism.
During her campaign, the leader, buoyed by an impressive outpouring of sympathy, nicknamed “Jacindamania” by the media, had been compared to two other young leaders, French Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Justin Trudeau.
Fueled on 1 August 2017 at the helm of a beleaguered New Zealand opposition, Jacinda Ardern had given Labor an incredible rise in the polls and embodied the promise of generational change.
Shame on whoever claimed to have never thought of running for prime minister one day.
After winning a second term thanks to Labor’s landslide victory in the 2020 general election, Ms Ardern has seen her popularity decline in recent years for a number of reasons: deteriorating economic conditions, falling confidence in her government, resurgence of Conservative opposition.
And the stress she has experienced over the last few years has made her falter at times. In December, after a heated exchange with opposition leader David Seymour, his murmurs were caught by his microphone, always on: “What an arrogant asshole! »
She’d made up for it with a healthy dose of self-mockery by auctioning off the parliamentary report containing the insult to raise funds for the fight against cancer.
Jacinda Ardern was born in Hamilton, 130km south of Auckland, in 1980 and says it was the poverty she saw in the North Island outback that helped shape her leftist beliefs.
The daughter of a police officer, she was raised in the Mormon faith, which she abandoned in the 2000s due to that church’s positions on homosexuality.
Thanks to an aunt, she was interested in politics at an early age and joined the working-class youth organizations. After her studies she worked for Prime Minister Helen Clark, then in London for Tony Blair.
“Everyone knows I just took the worst political job without warning,” she declared as she became the youngest leader in the Labor Party’s hundred-year history.
She didn’t think she would say it so well: Almost 18 months after taking office as Prime Minister, her country suffered a terrorist attack. A white supremacist opens fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 and injuring 40.
Ardern’s response has been celebrated around the world for her sensitivity, particularly when she wears a hijab while offering her condolences to Muslim families.
She was also praised for her strong political actions, including gun restrictions, and for her efforts to force social media giants to crack down on hate speech online.
Its health policy against the coronavirus, which prompted it to close the archipelago’s borders, was also well appreciated by New Zealanders.
During the coronavirus crisis, Ms Ardern has repeatedly urged New Zealanders to “show kindness” and called for a unified approach from what she calls a “team of five million”.