New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday she will resign within weeks, saying she doesn’t believe she has the energy to run for reelection in October.
Ardern said during a news conference that she would leave office by February 7, at which point she expects a new Labour Prime Minister to be sworn in. However, she added, “depending on the process that could be earlier.”
Labour Party lawmakers will elect a new leader of the party—and thus the country—in three days’ time, she said.
“This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life,” Ardern continued. “I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility.”
Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37 as one of the youngest leaders in the world and New Zealand’s youngest in 150 years. She was New Zealand’s third female leader. Within a year, she had given birth in office—the second world leader ever to do so.
Reelected to a second term in 2020, Ardern had been bolstered by her government’s Covid-19 policy of “go hard and go early,” imposing some of the strictest border regulations that shut out almost all foreigners for nearly two years.
However, Ardern’s response to the 2019 massacre of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, by a gunman espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred, solidified her image as a hero to the left—both in New Zealand and around the world.
“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it,” Ardern said of New Zealand at the time. Within a week, she had imposed temporary restrictions on the purchase of guns, followed within weeks by the passing of a law that banned most semiautomatic weapons.
This past June, Ardern visited President Biden at the White House—the first New Zealand Prime Minister to pay such a visit since John Key met with President Obama in 2014, and only the third such meeting in two decades. Ardern and Biden discussed the Pacific region, the war in Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and climate change.
The two world leaders bonded over their ancestors—his uncle and her grandfather—who served in the Pacific during World War II. “I think that speaks to the personal connection, but also the depth of our friendship and relationship as two countries,” Ardern had said to Biden.
Ardern said Thursday she had informed Labour Party members earlier Thursday of her decision to resign. She said she would remain a member of Parliament for her electorate in the city of Auckland until April, in order to avoid the need for a by-election.