Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Thursday announced that she would be leaving her post no later than February 7, while the Labor Party is to choose a new leader in three days. Ardern came to power in 2017 with a coalition government and then led her center-left party to a sweeping victory in the 2020 elections, but her popularity and that of her party have fallen in recent polls.
Ardern's resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will not be putting his name forward as Labour's new leader, it was reported.
“Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years,” the departing Prime Minister said in a statement.
“With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not, she added.
“I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along, she went on.
“I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple, Ardern, 42, also explained.
“In addition to our ambitious agenda that has sought to address long-term issues like the housing crisis, child poverty, and climate change, we also had to respond to a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror attack, a volcanic eruption, and a one in one hundred years global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The decisions that had to be made have been constant and weighty, she elaborated.
“I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three,” said Ardern, who will for the time being remain a Member of Parliament for Mount Albert. “This will give me a bit of time in the electorate before I depart, and also spare them and the country a by-election.”
”Beyond that, I have no plan. No next steps. All I know is that whatever I do, I will try and find ways to keep working for New Zealand and that I am looking forward to spending time with my family again - arguably, they are the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us.”
Ardern's fiancé Clarke Gayford sat in the front row during her announcement. ”To Clarke, let’s finally get married,” Ardern said. “To Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year.”
If a Labour Party leader is successfully elected next Sunday, then the winner will be sworn in as Prime Minister, and Ardern will stand down.
Ardern was the first female leader in history to take maternity leave - in 2018 - although she was the second to give birth while at the helm of government, after Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
In 2019, Ardern was praised for her handling of the worst massacre in New Zealand's modern history, when a shooting at two mosques in Christchurch left 50 dead and dozens injured, after which she got legislation passed severely restricting the sale of guns.
The following year, her management of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in one of the lowest contagion and deaths records. She also reduced her salary during the crisis.
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