New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern steps down, leaves long list of problems for successor

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern steps down, leaves long list of problems for successor

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern steps down, leaves long list of problems for successor

Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she will step down in a matter of weeks amid plunging popularity ratings and a raging economic crisis.

Jacinda Ardern, who also said that she will not contest general elections scheduled for October, saw her personal popularity take a deep dice in recent weeks amid forecast of a severe economic recession and highest inflation levels in three decades.

The litany of problems Jacinda Ardern will leave for her successor also includes a cost of living crisis, unaffordable housing, increasing crime and public discontent over harsh Covid-19 measures.

The latest opinion polls have predicted that the ruling Labour Party may lose the next elections to an opposition alliance led by the National Party.

The last opinion polls conducted in 2022 had predicted that the Labour Party may get around 33% of the mandate, while handing 38-39% to the centre-right National party.

“I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job. 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,” Jacinda Ardern was quoted as saying by the media.

The 42-year-old also admitted that she no longer had “enough in the tank”.

“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. I just don’t have enough in the tank for another four years,” she said at a meeting of members of her Labour Party.

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

Since that 2020 peak of “Jacindamania”, Ardern’s government has struggled — its popularity hampered by soaring inflation, a looming recession and a resurgent conservative opposition.

“I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging,” Ardern said.

“You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges,” she added.

“And we’ve done that while responding to some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of our nation arguably since World War II.”

Featured on the covers of British Vogue and Time magazine, there was a perception that Ardern was more popular abroad than she was at home.

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,” said Esther Hedges from Cambridge on New Zealand’s north island.

“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”.

New Zealand actor and Hollywood veteran Sam Neill said Ardern was frequently targeted by social media “bullies”.
“She deserved so much better,” he said in an online statement.

New Zealand will choose its next prime minister in a general election held on October 14, Ardern announced.
She said she would continue to serve as an electorate MP until then.

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

Although recent polls indicate a centre-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.”

Ardern was the second prime minister in the world to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

She said she was looking forward to spending more time with her daughter Neve, who is due to start school later this year, and finally getting married to her partner, TV personality Clarke Gayford.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led international tributes to Ardern, saying she had “shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength”.

“She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,” Albanese said.
The US ambassador to New Zealand, Tom Udall, said Ardern was an “incredible world leader”.

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