New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigns, saying the job has 'taken a lot out of me'

  • New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation on Thursday.
  • The surprise resignation will be official on February 7, before the country’s October election.
  • Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to continue in her position.

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The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, shocked supporters on Thursday by announcing that she will not stand for reelection this fall.

“It’s time,” the 42-year-old, center-left politician said at her party’s annual meeting, The Guardian reported. In office since 2017, Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank.”

She will leave office by February 7, months before the general election scheduled in October.

Ardern said that, when she realized she did not have the energy to compete in the upcoming contest, “I knew unfortunately there wasn’t much alternative other than to hand over now,” CNN reported.

“The decision was my own,” Ardern added. “Leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also the most challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges.”

Ardern governed over tumultuous times in New Zealand

Ardern was elected to her role in October 2017 as New Zealand’s youngest prime minister, and as the third woman to serve in the position. She was also the first female world leader to bring her baby, Neve, to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018.

Over her terms, she earned praise for a commitment to tackling racism and sexism, and eventually her response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting, where 50 Muslim worshippers were killed by an extremist in a mass shooting.

The outgoing prime minister called the attackers “extremists” who “have absolutely no place in New Zealand,” and later showed support to the nation’s Muslim community, expressing grief while wearing a hijab at a community event in the aftermath.

By early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had gripped the world, positioning Ardern as a sensible leader in the face of varied policy reactions.

Ardern’s health-forward and lockdown-heavy policies shaped New Zealand’s response to the pandemic at a time when much of the world oscillated between staying open and shutting down. By 2023, New Zealand had recorded 2,437 COVID-19 deaths, registering over 2 million cases, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. 

At least 90% of citizens age 12 and up have at least received one round of COVID-19 vaccines, the Ministry of Health added.

‘Sheer exhaustion’ from the pandemic

But as Ardern was lauded for unwavering and strict policies that kept the spread low, she spoke openly about the difficulties of leading during the crisis.

“It’s one thing to make a big decision a week, but with Covid, it was constant,” Ardern told New Zealand broadcaster 1 News in April 2022. “It got to the point where sleep came to you out of sheer exhaustion.”

Ardern was also forced to cancel her own wedding in January 2022 amid an Omicron surge in the country.

“Sometimes I would just take really long walks, thinking about the consequences. If we got it wrong on this side of the equation, [what were] the consequences, versus on this side… Did I spend a lot of time angsting over decisions? Absolutely,” Ardern told 1 News.

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