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New Zeland Prime Minister Resigns Amid National Backlash

The news came as a shock to much of the country. Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

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Although Jacinda Ardern was widely praised around the world for her response to crises including COVID-19 and a deadly mass shooting, many in her own country were bitterly opposed to some of her decisions.

Without citing the growing disdain directly, the prime minister of New Zealand announced this week that she would be stepping down effective Feb. 7.

A mixed legacy

Ardern had previously signaled her intention to seek another term in her leadership role, but in an unexpected announcement on Thursday, she confirmed her decision to leave the role she has held since 2017. At that time, she became the youngest female head of state in the world.

In the years since, she has encountered both highs and lows on professional and personal fronts, including:

  • Becoming just the second head of state to give birth while in office
  • Reaching out to a grieving Muslim population after dozens were fatally shot at two Christchurch mosques in 2019
  • Enacting some of the Western world’s strictest mitigation measures during the pandemic

Many New Zealanders went on to protest the initially effective COVID-19 restrictions, particularly after new variants began to spread despite the measures she put in place. This seemed to mark a shift in the once-glowing public persona she had cultivated as prime minister.

A tough decision

She made it clear in this week’s announcement that she didn’t want to resign but felt it was best for the nation.

I am not leaving because it was hard,” Ardern said. “Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job.”

Admitting that she doesn’t “have enough in the tank to do it justice,” she decided to step down.

It is unclear who will be taking over for her on an interim basis until October’s election.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee January 20th, 2023
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