- By Tiffanie Turnbull
- BBC News
Jan 19, 2023 07:11 03
Updated 6 hours ago
Credit, Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern made her decision public on Thursday (01/19).
Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday (19 January) that she would step down as New Zealand’s Prime Minister ahead of this year’s elections. The 42yearold Prime Minister was moved by the announcement to the press, saying she no longer had “enough fuel in the tank” to run the country.
Ardern fought back tears as he spoke about how his “challenging” six years in office had taken their toll.
Labor MPs will vote on Ardern’s successor on Sunday.
The announcement surprised analysts and voters alike. But polls suggest Labor would struggle if Ardern were to seek reelection in the October 14 election.
Ardern said he took time out over the summer break to reflect on his future, hoping to find the courage and energy to continue in office.
“But unfortunately I didn’t and I would be doing New Zealand a disservice if I stayed in the role,” she said.
Ardern will leave office by February 7, when an internal election is held for his party. If no candidate receives the support of twothirds of the party representatives, a membership election takes place.
Ardern was elected prime minister in 2017 at the age of 37 when she became the world’s youngest head of government.
The following year, she became the second world leaderelect to give birth to a child during her tenure, after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 1990.
She ruled New Zealand during the COVID19 pandemic and subsequent recession, the Christchurch Mosque shooting and the eruption of a volcano on White Island.
Ardern said the past five and a half years had been the “most rewarding” of his life, but guiding the country through crises had been difficult.
“These events … were exhausting because of their weight, their sheer weight and their ongoing nature. There was never a moment when it felt like we were just ruling.”
Credit, Getty Images
Ardern said she’s looking forward to finally marrying her partner, Clarke Gayford
National Party leader Chris Luxon was among those who thanked Ardern “for his services to New Zealand”.
“She gave everything in this incredibly demanding role,” the opposition leader wrote on Twitter.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described Ardern as a leader of intellect, strength and empathy.
“Jacinda was a passionate supporter of New Zealand, an inspiration to many and a great friend to me,” he wrote.
Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said she made an “immeasurable” difference to the world.
But while Ardern was seen as a political star in the rest of the world, polls of New Zealand voters suggest she was growing increasingly unpopular.
She led the Labor Party to a landslide victory in the 2020 election, building on the positive image her government has garnered from the strong response to the pandemic.
But the latest opinion polls show her popularity is at an alltime low since her election.
Last year Ardern told the BBC his waning popularity was the price his government had paid to protect people from Covid19.
She has also faced an inflationary crisis, rising crime and dissatisfaction with a backlog of campaign promises that have been postponed during the pandemic.
Reaction to Ardern’s announcement on Thursday was mixed. A resident of her own constituency in Auckland told the NZ Herald newspaper that Ardern was “on the run before she gets kicked out”, blaming her for the rise in crime and the cost of living.
For others, like Auckland Pride’s Max Tweedie, she is “one of the greatest Prime Ministers in New Zealand history”.
However, Ardern stressed that he would not resign over electoral issues.
“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.”
No candidates have yet surfaced for the position. But several lawmakers, including Deputy Leader Grant Robertson, have already said they will not run.
On Thursday, Ardern said his government’s achievements included changes in climate policy, social housing and reducing child poverty.
But she said she hopes her legacy in New Zealand is “as someone who has always tried to be kind”.
“I hope to leave New Zealanders believing that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but determined, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader — someone who knows when it’s time to walk away,” Arden said.