New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she would be stepping down as the leader of the country, no later than early February, and will not be seeking re-election. Ardern, who had been in office for five and a half years, said that she had “no more in the tank” to continue leading the country. She stated that it had been a tough five and a half years as prime minister and that she was only human and needed to step aside.
A ruling New Zealand Labour Party vote for a new leader will take place on Sunday, and the party leader will be prime minister until the next general election. Ardern stated that she believed Labour would win the upcoming election. Political commentators have stated that Ardern’s announcement was a surprise, as polls still ranked her as the country’s preferred prime minister, and there is not a clear successor.
Ardern has been widely admired for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, her handling of the Christchurch terrorist attack, and her progressive policies on issues such as child poverty and climate change. Her decision to step down has come as a surprise to many, as she had previously indicated that she intended to seek re-election.
During the press conference, Ardern emphasized that her decision was not based on the difficulty of the job but rather on a belief that others could do it better. She also made a point of mentioning her personal life, mentioning her daughter Neve and her longtime partner Clarke Gayford, stating that she was looking forward to being there for Neve when she starts school this year and that it was time for her and Gayford to get married.
While the ruling Labour party is expected to vote for a new leader on Sunday, it is unclear at this time who will succeed Ardern as the party leader and the country’s Prime Minister. Some political commentators have suggested that deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson may be a likely candidate, however, he has stated that he will not be seeking to stand as the next Labour leader.
The general election, which will determine the next Prime Minister of New Zealand, is set to be held on October 14th.