New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she will not seek re-election to parliament in this year’s general election and plans to step down as prime minister early next month.
The leader of the Labor Party said in a televised statement that she no longer has “enough in the tank” to fully play her role and will end her term as prime minister by February 7 at the latest.
A general election will be held on October 14, she added.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation on January 19, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Getty/TBEN)
After serving as the country’s leader for more than five years, an emotional Ardern told reporters in the North Island town of Napier that this summer she had “hoped to find a way not only to prepare for another year, but on a new term”, but had not been able to do so.
“I know what this job demands. And I know I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,” she said.
The New Zealand Labor Party will hold a leadership vote on Sunday. According to Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasury Secretary Grant Robertson will not run for leadership.
Ardern, 42, has been prime minister since October 2017. In her time as a leader, she received international recognition for her handling of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack and her initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also made headlines for taking maternity leave after the birth of her daughter in June 2018, becoming the world’s first sitting leader to do so.
But both Ardern and the ruling party have faced waning public support over the past year, with recent polls placing Labor behind Conservative rivals amid the economic fallout from the pandemic and a housing crisis, among others.
A Kantar One News poll in December found the opposition National Party ahead of Labor by 5 percentage points, while Ardern reported her lowest popularity as prime minister-preferred since becoming party leader in August 2017.
However, Ardern said she was not stepping down because she did not believe Labor could win the next election, but because she believed it could.
Bryce Edwards, a political analyst and lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, told TBEN News Thursday’s announcement shocked New Zealanders, but it came as no surprise to some.
“While no one really saw this coming today, there has been speculation in recent months that she might resign,” Edwards said, pointing to Labor’s decline in the polls and increasingly negative media coverage of Ardern.
Citing the National Party’s performance in recent polls, Edwards said pundits expect a change of government in National in October, adding that it would have been a very tough campaign for Ardern to change.
As the party searches for her replacement, Edwards says no politician will find it easy. “She really stood out above everyone else in New Zealand politics,” he said.
Ardern will retain her position as legislator until April, a written statement said, to avoid the need for by-elections in her constituency ahead of October elections.