New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation on the same day she declared a general election for October this year.
Ardern stated during the party’s annual caucus gathering on Thursday that she “no longer had enough in the tank” to perform the job. “It’s time,” she declared.
“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple,” she said.
Her time as Prime Minister will end on February 7, but she will remain an MP until the election later this year.
“I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said. Ardern stated that she had considered whether she had the energy to remain in the post throughout the summer break and had determined that she did not.
Ardern became the world’s youngest female prime minister when she was elected in 2017 at the age of 37. She has led New Zealand through the Covid-19 epidemic, as well as severe calamities such as the terror assault on two Christchurch mosques and the White Island volcano eruption.
“This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life. But it’s also had its challenges – amongst an agenda focused on housing, child poverty and climate change, we encountered a … domestic terror event, a major natural disaster, a global pandemic, and an economic crisis,” she said.
When asked how she wants New Zealanders to remember her, Ardern replied, “as someone who always tried to be kind.”
“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” Ardern said.
Over the past year, Ardern has received a rise in violent threats, mainly from conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine groups enraged by the country’s vaccination regulations and Covid-19 lockdowns. However, she stated that the heightened risk of the work was not the reason she decided to resign.
“I don’t want to leave the impression that the adversity you face in politics is the reason that people exit. Yes, it does have an impact. We are humans after all, but that was not the basis of my decision,” she said.
Ardern stated that her only future ambitions were to spend more time with her family.
She acknowledged her boyfriend, Clarke Gayford, and daughter Neve, whom she gave birth to while holding office, as “the ones that have given the most out of all of us”.
“To Neve: Mum is excited to see you when you start school this year. And to Clarke, let’s finally tie the knot.”
The prime minister’s declaration comes as New Zealand enters a contentious election year, with the election date set for October 14. Polls in recent months have shown that Ardern’s Labour Party is behind the opposition National Party.
Ardern stated that the decision to resign was not motivated by her polling slide.
“I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe we can and will, and we need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge,” she said.
It is unclear who will succeed Ardern: deputy leader and finance minister Grant Robertson, who would be regarded a contender for the job, said on Thursday that he would not be pursuing the position. In a statement, he said “I am not putting myself forward to be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour party.”
The Labour Caucus now has seven days to determine whether a new candidate has more than two-thirds of caucus support to become the next leader and prime minister. On the 22nd of January, the caucus will vote for a new leader. If no one receives that amount of support, the leadership election will be decided by the entire Labour membership.
Opposition National leader Christopher Luxon said Ardern had “made a big contribution to New Zealand, in what is a challenging and demanding job” termed her a “strong representative for New Zealand on the international stage”.
“Her leadership in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks was simultaneously strong and compassionate, and is something she can be proud of,” he said.