New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said she is resigning, in an unexpected announcement that came as she confirmed a national election for October.
At the party’s first caucus meeting of the year on Thursday, Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job. “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 conclude no later than 7 February but she will continue as an MP until the election this year.
Jacinda Ardern gives out a hug in March 2019 after the Christchurch mosque attacks. The New Zealand prime minister’s response to the killings was a defining moment in her premiership.
“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.
Ardern said she had reflected over the summer break on whether she had the energy to continue in the role, and had concluded she did not.
Ardern became the world’s youngest female head of government when she was elected prime minister in 2017 at 37. She has led New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, and a series of disasters including the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, and the White Island volcanic eruption.
“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.
Asked how she would like New Zealanders to remember her leadership, Ardern said “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.