““I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.””
Those are the words of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has announced she will not seek another term and will step down from her office by Feb. 7.
Ardern has been prime minister for five-and-a-half years, winning international praise for leading New Zealand through the traumas of the Christchurch mass shooting in 2019 and strict COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I am entering now my sixth year in office, and for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,” Ardern said as she fought back tears at a news conference Thursday, local time, in Napier, New Zealand.
“I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role, comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not. I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.”
Ardern faced a tough campaign in the fall. While her center-left Labour Party won a landslide re-election in 2020, the conservative National Party has taken the lead in recent polls.
She said a national election will be held Oct. 14, and that she will remain a lawmaker until then.
Ardern was 37 she took office in 2017, making her one of the youngest world leaders. In her term, she advocated strongly for environmental issues and was seen as a role model for working mothers. In 2018 she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.
“I hope … I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused,” she said Thursday. “That you can be your own kind of leader, one who knows when it’s time to go.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised Ardern after her announcement, saying in a tweet that she “has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities. Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me.