New Zealand PM says ‘it’s time’ to quit

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — Jacindamania formally ends next month.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a global figurehead of progressive politics, announced Thursday her resignation in a matter of weeks, shocking her country.

The 42-year-old — who steered the country through natural disasters, the Covid pandemic, and its worst-ever terror attack — said she no longer had “enough in the tank.”

“I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges,” Ardern said at a meeting of members of her Labor Party.

“I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said.

Ardern said she would step down no later than 7 February, less than three years after winning a landslide election to secure her second term in office.

Ardern won international acclaim for her empathetic handling of the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre, in which 51 Muslim worshippers were killed and another 40 wounded.

Later that year she was praised for her decisive leadership during the fatal White Island (also known as Whakaari) volcano eruption.
On Thursday she cited her government’s actions on housing affordability, climate change and child poverty as further sources of pride.

New Zealand will choose its next prime minister in a general election held on 14 October, Ardern announced.

She said she would continue to serve as an electorate member of parliament until then.

Her departure leaves a void at the top of the Labor party, with her deputy Grant Robertson swiftly ruling out a tilt at the leadership.

Although recent polls indicate a center-right coalition will likely win the election, Ardern said that was not the reason for her resignation.
“I am not leaving because I believe we cannot win the next election, but because I believe we can and will,” she said.

“I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead — and also when you’re not.”

‘Not happy with her’

At her peak she was a domestic force, but her government has been steadily sliding in the polls over the last year.

“It’s about time. She’s wrecked the economy and food prices have skyrocketed,” Esther Hedges from Cambridge on New Zealand’s north island said.

“I’m not happy with her and I don’t know anyone who is,” the 65-year-old added.

Christina Sayer, 38, said Ardern was “the best prime minister we have had.”

“I like the type of person she is and she cares about people. I’m sorry to see her go.”

The stress of the job has been evident, with Ardern showing a rare lapse of poise last month when she was unwittingly caught calling an opposition politician an “arrogant prick.”

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