Jacinda Ardern, who rose to prominence as a liberal icon while serving as prime minister of New Zealand but was confronted with mounting domestic political difficulties, said unexpectedly on Thursday that she would be resigning from her position.
She said she did not feel personally prepared to serve another term in a sad speech in the New Zealand city of Napier, where Ms. Ardern’s Labour Party was holding its summer caucus retreat. By February 7, she said, she would be leaving her position.
“I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging,” Ms. Ardern said. “You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges.”
She added: “This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life. I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility.”
Labour lawmakers will elect a new leader of the party — and the country — in three days’ time, Ms. Ardern said.
Ms. Ardern, 42, took office as prime minister in 2017 and triumphed in an unprecedented re-election in 2020, thanks in large part to New Zealand’s response to the Covid pandemic, which allowed citizens to lead fairly normal lives for the majority of the outbreak.
However, as a result of the economy’s problems and numerous highly publicised violent crime incidents, her party has now seen a dramatic decline in the polls.
Ms Ardern quickly gained international notoriety with her surprising ascent to office as New Zealand’s youngest prime leader in 150 years.
While in office, she gave birth to a daughter and brought her to the UN floor. She was seen by supporters as the optimistic face of progressivism and a welcome contrast to the American politics embodied by Donald J. Trump at the time.
Her status as a hero of the international left, however, was cemented by her response to the murder of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019 by a shooter spewing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry. “We stand for variety, goodwill, and compassion. An abode for individuals who uphold our principles. When referring to New Zealand, she stated, “Refuge for those who need it.”
Ms. Ardern claimed that she had told party members of her resignation earlier on Thursday. In order to prevent the necessity for a by-election, she said that she will continue to serve as a representative for her Auckland-area constituency in Parliament until the end of April.
Before the election, on October 14 Labour has been dealing with significant political difficulties. The centre-right National Party, led by former aviation executive Christopher Luxon, has been outperforming the party in polls for almost a year. Labour had 33% of the vote as of December, compared to 38% for the National Party.
Nevertheless, Ms. Ardern’s standing with voters has not changed. In polls, she consistently performs better than Mr. Luxon as the “preferred prime minister” of the majority of New Zealanders.
The polls, according to Mr. Luxon, showed that New Zealanders believed their nation was moving in the “wrong path.” “What they see is a government that’s just not getting things done,” he continued.
Voters are mostly concerned about the numerous economic problems the nation is experiencing. In 2022, New Zealand’s home values, which had risen over the previous ten years, decreased by 12 per cent.
The risk of negative equity is considerable for borrowers because they must manage a high cost of living, soaring inflation, and the twin calamities of declining home values and rising interest rates. The majority of borrowers can only fix their mortgage rate for a limited period of time.
Unhappiness has also been exacerbated by what is believed to be an increase in violent crime, including high-profile occurrences in which employees of corner stores have been attacked and, in one case, killed.
Ms. Ardern’s resignation would be a shock to many New Zealanders, according to political commentator and former National Party press secretary Ben Thomas, and it might be disastrous for Labour.
She is Labour’s top political asset, he declared. In contrast to a carefully thought-out plan for what would be best for Labour in the election, “it would very much be a personal decision to step down.”
Ms. Ardern spoke in front of their 5-year-old daughter Neve and her partner, the television host Clarke Gayford. They had made “the most sacrifices out of all of us,” she claimed.
She remarked, “To Neve: Mum is excited to be there when you start school this year. “And to Clarke, let’s get married at last.”
Ms. Ardern closely follows in the footsteps of a recent predecessor, John Key, who resigned in 2016 and gave way for his deputy, Bill English, to become the leader of the National Party and prime minister. By leaving office almost a year before a general election, Mr. Key left a similar legacy.
But Ms. Ardern’s replacement is not immediately apparent. According to Ms. Ardern, Grant Robertson, the deputy leader of Labour, would not run for the position.
A criterion that enhances the possibility of a power vacuum, protracted infighting, and a relative newcomer, at least in the eyes of voters, governing the party and the nation is the requirement that any candidate seeking to head Labour must have the backing of at least two-thirds of its parliamentarians.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has announced her resignation due to personal reasons and her party’s recent mounting domestic political difficulties. Despite her party’s decline in polls, Ardern remains highly popular among voters and has been credited for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her resignation may have a significant impact on New Zealand’s political landscape as the Labour Party will elect a new leader in three days’ time.
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