New Zealand: PM Jacinda Ardern to step down - Dispatch Weekly

January 19, 2023 - Reading time: 3 minutes

​Jacinda Ardern has declared she will step down as prime minister of New Zealand at the end of the month because she no longer has “enough in the tank” to do so.

She choked up as she explained how six “difficult” years in the position had taken a toll.

By no later than 7 February, she will resign as the head of the Labour Party. In the upcoming days, an election will be held to decide who will take her place.

On 14 October, New Zealand will have a general election.

The 42-year-old Ms. Ardern claimed that during the summer break she had given her future some thought.

According to her statement to reporters, “I had thought that I would discover what I needed to carry on over that period, but, regrettably, I haven’t, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue.”

When Ms. Ardern, then 37, won the 2017 election for prime minister, she made history as the world’s youngest female head of state.

She gave birth to her second child a year later, making history as the second elected world leader to do so.

She guided New Zealand through the White Island volcano eruption, the Christchurch mosque massacres, and the Covid-19 outbreak and recession that followed.

It’s one thing to guide your nation through an era of calm, it’s quite another to do it during a moment of crisis, she remarked.

“Due to their magnitude, weight, and ongoing nature, these events have been demanding. There has never really been a time when it felt like we were just running the country.”

Opinion surveys show that Ms. Ardern’s domestic popularity has dropped to record lows in recent months, despite her leading the Labour Party to a resounding election victory in 2020.

But Ms. Ardern insisted that she was staying because she thought Labour would win the election, not because she thought it couldn’t.

For that challenge, “we need a new set of shoulders,” she declared.

Deputy leader Grant Robertson said he would not contest the leadership vote, which will happen on Sunday. If one candidate cannot garner the support of two-thirds of the party room, the vote will go to Labour’s lay membership.

Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, praised Ms. Ardern for being a leader with intelligence, fortitude, and humanity.

He stated on Twitter that Jacinda “has been a ferocious advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to many, and a dear friend to me.”

Ms. Ardern mentioned her government’s accomplishments in the areas of combating climate change, social housing, and lowering child poverty as some of her personal favourites.

However, she expressed her desire for New Zealanders to remember her as “someone who always tried to be compassionate.”

“I want New Zealanders to believe that it’s possible to be nice but firm, sympathetic but decisive, and upbeat but laser-focused. And that you are capable of being your own kind of leader, one who understands when to leave.”

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.