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Jacinda Ardern to step down as New Zealand Prime Minister

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday, announced she will stand aside for a new leader within weeks, saying she doesn’t believe she has the energy to seek re-election in the October polls.

Speaking at a news conference, Ardern said her term would end by February 7, when she expects a new Labour prime minister will be sworn in – though “depending on the process that could be earlier.”

Ardern said 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.

“This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare for not just another year, but another term – because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that,” 

“The decision was my own,” Ardern said. “Leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also the most challenging. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges.”

“I no longer have enough in the tank to do the job justice,” she added.

“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called ‘real’ reason was… The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human,” she continued. “Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”

A ruling New Zealand Labour Party vote for a new leader will take place on Sunday; the party leader will be prime minister until the next general election. Ardern’s term as leader will conclude no later than Feb. 7 and a general election will be held on Oct. 14.

Ardern said she believed Labour would win the upcoming election.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who also serves as finance minister, said in a statement he would not seek to stand as the next Labour leader.

Ardern’s successor as party leader and prime minister faces a stern test in a general election, with support for Labour falling and the country expected to go into a recession next quarter.

When Ardern became prime minister in 2017 at the age of 37, she was New Zealand’s third female leader and one of the youngest leaders in the world. Within a year, she had given birth in office – only the second world leader ever to do so.

She was re-elected for a second term in 2020, the victory buoyed by her government’s “go hard and go early” approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw New Zealand impose some of the world’s strictest border rules, separating families and shutting out almost all foreigners for almost two years.

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