New Zealand: Can Jacinda Ardern’s surprise resignation set a precedent?

New Zealand: Can Jacinda Ardern’s surprise resignation set a precedent?

A little over five years in office and curtain. Jacinda Ardern surprised five million New Zealanders when she announced her retirement on Thursday. The prime minister, who has been at the head of the country since 2017, is leaving her post exhausted. “I know what this job demands and I know I don’t have enough energy left to do it justice. It’s that simple,” said the 42-year-old leader in a candid speech.

The reach of Jacinda Ardern’s stage performance, as well as her political actions and personality, extends far beyond the borders of New Zealand. Can the Labor Party leader’s decision to remain MPs until April inspire other figures to quit? Not clinging to power?

“This resignation must set a precedent. We must succeed in separating careerism and politics. We have an ingrained perception that the exercise of power is a profession. If we want it to fulfill a promise of democracy, then in reality we should not be able to have a career in politics,” analyzes Léa Chamboncel, journalist, author of the book More women in politics!

“Dramatic to lose such talent to sexist abuse”

The wear and tear of power can be seen behind this surprising departure. And above all, the difficulty of being a woman in politics. “It’s a first on this scale. But as a politician, I’m surrounded by women who often ask this question, notes Alice Coffin, Paris Councilor (12th), author of The Lesbian Genius and present in New Zealand during the 2019 Christchurch attacks. She needs to see the attacks she has suffered. His whole speech reflected my own political experience. I got the news in two ways: it’s a rare move to applaud, but it’s also a sign of the absolute toxicity of the attacks on women in politics. It’s tragic to lose such talent to sexist abuse.”

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Barely a few hours after Jacinda Ardern was announced, the BBC was also pinned against her for a sexist article title.

Jacinda Ardern, aged 37, was elected New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister since 1856, marking her way to the head of state. Celebrated for her management of the Covid-19 epidemic, she was notable for several symbolic gestures alongside her political management. For example, when she put on a veil to support Muslim families affected by the attacks in Christchurch, or when she ended up at the United Nations in 2018 accompanied by her three-month-old daughter.

“Retreat, a very humble decision”

“I think leading a country is the most privileged position you can have, but also one of the most difficult. You cannot and should not do this unless you have a full tank of energy and a small reserve for unexpected challenges […]The future ex-prime minister, daughter of a police officer, slipped out of the North Island’s hinterland. But I’m not going because it was difficult. If that had been the case, I would probably have left the position two months after starting! I’m leaving because such a privileged role comes with responsibility – the responsibility of knowing when you are the right person to lead and when you are not. »

Giving up the most prestigious position in his country, admitting his weariness, retiring to further the general interest… So many rare acts in politics, like a kind of guide to good practice, bequeathed to his successors. “Resigning is a very modest decision that many politicians miss. She showed us that it is possible to get out of the verticality of the exercise of power by admitting that we can make mistakes, analyzes Léa Chamboncel. We associate domination with power. Until we break that, political leaders will always have the same characteristics. »

The shock wave has been digested, the lessons from this resignation do not seem to have been learned by the political leadership (yet?). “The emblematic example is Sandrine Rousseau, but there are others on the ground. Politicians are not clear, they continue to attack. I see a lot of reactions that show it’s not moving,” laments Alice Coffin.

“I hope that in return I leave behind the belief that you can be kind but strong. Sensitive but decisive. Optimistic but focused. That you can be your own leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” concluded Jacinda Ardern in her speech. When she took office in 2017, she said, not without a touch of humor that characterizes her. “Everyone knows that I’ve just accepted the worst political post without notice. “Premonition.