Home / Opinion / Views /  Mint Explainer: What's behind New Zealand PM Ardern's sudden resignation?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she would be stepping down from her country’s top job. She leaves office a globally recognised figure for her initial success in combating covid outbreak and her accessible political style. However, her policy record presents a mixed picture. Mint breaks down her tenure and what to make of her departure:

On 19 January, Ardern surprised her country and the world by announcing her resignation as prime minister of New Zealand. After almost six years at the helm of her country, Ardern admitted that she did not have “enough left in the tank" and could not continue.

It has been a challenging tenure, to say the least. Ardern took office in 2017 and became the world’s youngest female head of state at just 37. Her tenure saw her deal with the covid outbreak, for which she initially garnered much global praise. She was also thrust on the world stage after the Christchurch terrorist attacks necessitated a international response with global partners.

Ardern also had to handle New Zealand’s foreign policy during a tricky period. While a steadfast ally of America, Ardern also tried to maintain good ties with Beijing. This turned out to be a difficult balancing act.

At home and abroad, her political style garnered much attention. Ardern, who placed a premium on “kindness" in public life, was seen by many as an empathetic leader in a time of crisis. She also became only the second female leader to give birth in office.

While her international reputation grew significantly, it began to unravel at home. Despite a handsome election victory in 2020, a succession of crises like the pandemic and the Ukraine war stymied Ardern’s larger reform agenda in office. Ardern acknowledged as much, implicitly acknowledging in her resignation speech that her government had spent much time reacting to crises instead of governing.

High inflation, dropping economic growth rates and rising concern about national crime rates contributed to the declining popularity of her government. Over two years, her party’s popularity fell steadily from the highs it enjoyed in December 2020.

At the time of Ardern’s resignation, her party trailed behind the opposition National Party by 4 percentage  points in national polls. With national elections slated for October this year, Ardern decided to step down. Ardern averred that she was not resigning because she was afraid of losing an election.

World leaders like Antony Albanese of Australia and Justin Trudeau of Canada lauded Ardern’s tenure in office in the aftermath of her decision to step down.

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