Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has announced her resignation, in an unexpected statement that coincided with the confirmation of a general election for October.
Ardern said that she “no longer had enough in the tank” to carry out the job at the party’s first caucus meeting of the year on Thursday. “It’s time,” she added.
“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 term as Prime Minister will end no later than 7 February, 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.
Over the summer vacation, Ardern said she thought about whether or not she had the capacity to carry on in the position and came to the conclusion 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 numerous crises, including the volcanic eruption on White Island, the Christchurch terrorist attack on two mosques, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life. But it’s also had its challenges – among 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 wished her time in office will be remembered by New Zealanders, 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.
Threats of violence against Ardern have significantly increased over the past year, especially from groups of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine groups who are enraged by the nation’s vaccination mandates and lockdowns. Although she said that her choice to leave the position was not motivated by the increased risks that came with the job.
“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 other than spending more time with her family, she had no plans for the future.
She thanked her partner, Clarke Gayford, and daughter Neve, whom she gave birth to while in government, as “the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us”.
“To Neve: Mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And to Clarke – let’s finally get married.”