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Jacinda Ardern announces resignation as New Zealand's prime minister

Bloomberg • 4 min read
Jacinda Ardern announces resignation as New Zealand's prime minister
New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Bloomberg
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she is stepping down in a shock resignation ahead of a general election later this year.

Ardern, 42, who became the world’s youngest female leader when she led her Labour Party to power in 2017, doesn’t have the energy or inspiration to seek re-election, she told reporters Thursday. She named the election date as Oct 14.

“I have given my absolute all to being prime minister but it has also taken a lot out of me,” she said in Napier, where Labour is holding a caucus meeting. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.”

The unexpected announcement brings the curtain down on a stunning political career that saw Ardern navigate unprecedented crises and become a torch-bearer for liberal values on the world stage. She was facing an uphill battle to win a third term in office, with Labour trailing the opposition National Party in opinion polls.

The Labour caucus will vote on a new leader on Jan 22, with the winner needing two-thirds support. If no-one has that, the contest will go to the wider party membership. It is expected that process will conclude no later than Feb 7, Ardern said.

Crisis Manager

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Potential contenders for the leadership may include Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Housing Minister Megan Wood, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan and Immigration Minister Michael Wood. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, a close ally of Ardern’s, said he will not stand.

Ardern will be remembered as an extraordinary crisis manager and a trail-blazer for working women.

In 2018 she become just the second world leader to give birth in office, after former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

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After an extremist went on a shooting spree at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch in March 2019, killing 51 and injuring dozens more, an image of Ardern wearing a headscarf as she mourned with families of the victims went around the world and helped to ease outrage in Muslim nations.

She immediately reformed gun laws, banning the semi-automatic weapons used in the attack.

Her brand of decisive, empathetic leadership was again on display when a volcano off the New Zealand coast erupted in December 2019, killing 22 people and injuring dozens, many of them tourists.

Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength.

She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities.

Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me.

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 19, 2023

Her initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic also stood out.

Ardern put the country into one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to eliminate community transmission of the virus and allow a much quicker return to normality.

That success saw her ride a wave of popularity to a resounding election victory in 2020, with Labour securing the first outright majority in parliament since the introduction of proportional representation in 1996.

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But since then her star has waned in New Zealand as voters turned their focus on the soaring cost of living and darkening economic outlook. The central bank is forecasting a recession this year as it hikes interest rates at record pace to regain control of inflation.

A 1News/Kantar poll published last month showed Labour on 33% support, five points behind National on 38%. National’s ally the ACT Party had 11% support, which would give the pair a parliamentary majority if the results were replicated at the election.

Ardern, whose voice trembled with emotion as she announced her resignation, said being prime minister had been the greatest honour of her life.

She said she has no plans for what she will do after she leaves parliament in April besides spending more time with daughter Neve, 4, and partner Clarke Gayford.

“To Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year,” she said. “And to Clarke, let’s finally get married.”

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