New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announces shock resignation

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Jacinda Ardern has announced she will be standing down as prime minister of New Zealand next month

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced in a shock statement she will not stand for re-election. The Labour Party leader said she was too tired to stand for a third term.

Ardern, who became the world’s youngest female head of state at 37 when she was elected prime minister in 2017, said in a tearful statement, “I no longer have enough in the tank”. After spending the summer pondering her future, she sent astonishment around the world, confirming she will be standing down next month.

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The 42-year-old has made a reputation for taking a no nonsense approach to political and social issues, and has often made headlines for tackling national crises like the Christchurch mosque shootings, the volcanic eruption on White Island and the Covid-19 pandemic.

She is also known for her direct approach when facing journalists. In November 2022, when holding a press conference with the Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin, who also happens to be a younger woman, a reporter suggested that the meeting was held because of them being “young female leaders”, to which Ardern replied “We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics – it’s reality – because two women meet, it is not simply because of their gender.”

In a statement, Ardern said: “I had hoped that I would find what I needed to carry on over that period but, unfortunately, I haven’t, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue. I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused ... that you can be your own kind of leader, one who knows when it’s time to go.”

Her statement quickly saw replies and praise from fellow world leaders, with neighbouring country Australia’s recently elected PM Anthony Albanese saying on Twitter: “Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength.”

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He added: “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.”

Christoffer Luxon, leader of the opposition National Party wrote: “On behalf of the National Party, I offer to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern our thanks for her service to New Zealand. She has given her all to this incredibly demanding job and I wish her and her family all the very best for the future. Thank you Jacinda.”

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as leader of her country in February.New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as leader of her country in February.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as leader of her country in February. | AFP via Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern first became prime minister after the 2017 election, when the Labour Party gained 36.89 percent of the vote, leading to a coalition government. In the 2020 election, the party won a sole majority with 50.01 percent.

Miss Ardern has said she will step down on February 7 at the latest, but will continue as a member of parliament until the general election in October to spare her constituency a by-election.

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Despite her landslide victory in 2020, her centre-left party has been struggling in recent polls, which has led to speculation this affected her decision. Ardern, however, denies this, saying she believes her party can win a third term.

“I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job,” she said.

“I am 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 is that simple.”

She added she was looking forward to spending time with her family again, and to getting married to her partner Clarke Gayford, with whom she had a daughter in 2018.

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“Arguably, they’re the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us. And so to Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And to Clarke, let’s finally get married.”

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