She became a figurehead for ‘progressive’ politics but her popularity has been on the wain due to her ultra-strict handling of the Covid crisis
By Democrat reporter
Jacinda Ardern has announced she is quitting as New Zealand’s prime minister after a divisive five and a half years in charge. The 42-year-old – once the world’s youngest female head of government – said she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job juctice.
Ms Ardern has become a figurehead for so-called ‘progressive politics’ since her election in 2017. But she leaves with her party bombing in the polls and the phenomena of ‘Jacinda-mania’ waning.
She has faced huge criticism for her handling of the Covid pandemic. While New Zealand recorded few deaths, in part because of its geographically isolated position, critics accused her of keeping her country in an effective Covid prison.
She eventually ditched her zero-tolerance approach on the borders in the face of new variants. Announcing her departure on Thursday, she said: “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.”
New Zealanders will go to the polls in October. Despite initial popularity, Ms Ardern’s Labour party is traling the centre-right National Party in the polls.
Since nationwide ‘red light’ restrictions were imposed in January last year due to the rise of the Omicron variant, Ms Ardern’s party has led in just 10 polls out of 40 polls and none since October.
Ms Ardern – known for her negativity towards the UK and the monarchy – was elected to the role at the age of 37 in October 2017, making history as the world’s youngest female head of government.
The next year, she made history again by giving birth while in office – making her the world’s second elected head of government to do so.
With Thursday’s announcement, Ms Ardern called for a general election on October 14. She said she had given her “absolute all” during her time in office but did not have the reserve to serve another term. She will officially step down next month.