At a time when aging rock stars are embarking on seemingly endless farewell tours, and America is contemplating a presidential election between two aging men, the world’s most famous female political superstar announced her retirement in July. She will be out of office and out of Parliament before her 43rd birthday.

At a news conference on the North Island, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the shock announcement that she was leaving office in just over a fortnight on February 7.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Labor Party will elect a new leader. In April, there will be a by-election to replace Ms Ardern in her constituency of Mount Albert. Ms Ardern also announced that she is calling a general election for October 14 this year.

Ms Ardern’s five-and-a-half-year political leadership and the manner in which she left it have been unique and will be the subject of commentary for years to come.

However, by this summer she will be out of politics and her future plans are vague beyond this message to her five-year-old daughter and her partner Clarke Gifford, a television presenter: “To New : Mom’s looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And to Clark — let’s finally get married.”

Ms Ardern was not a national or international record breaker for her gender or age. She is New Zealand’s third female prime minister, following Jenny Shipley and the long-serving Helen Clark, for whom Ms Ardern served.

Yet Ms Ardern has been a star since she became prime minister of a coalition government in 2017, aged just 37. Many people outside of New Zealand were caught up in “Jasendamania”, seeing this self-proclaimed “progressive” and “feminist” as the antithesis of populist authoritarian men like Donald Trump who were enjoying power at the time. .

She soon appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine And time magazine, not bad for the leader of a small country of five million people.

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Ardern broke it off as she announced her resignation.

Ms Ardern hit back at comments that were based on her femininity. She slapped reporters who suggested she was holding New Zealand’s first bilateral meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin because they were both young women. She said: “I wonder if anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were the same age.”

A farmer has publicly apologized after being labeled a “beautiful communist” on a placard at a protest.

‘You can be kind but strong’

Ms Ardern’s tearful news conference announcing her departure could hardly have been less Trumpian. She put her reasons bluntly: “I know what it takes. And I know I don’t have enough to do it justice anymore. It’s that simple.”

He concluded his statement by thanking the people of New Zealand for playing him “the greatest role in my life. I hope that in return I leave believing that you are kind, but strong, compassionate. , but can be decisive, optimistic, but focused. Be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go.”

Ms Ardern’s two terms in office have been action-packed, as she noted: “We faced a … domestic terrorist incident, a major natural disaster, a global pandemic, and an economic crisis. “

In March 2019, he united the nation after the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 51 people.

He insisted that the perpetrator’s name not be used, while he said of the Muslim victims: “They are us.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her longtime partner Clark Gifford
Ms Ardern with longtime partner Clarke Gifford

In December of that year, he had an equally strong and comprehensive message when the Whakaari volcano erupted on White Island, killing 21 people, many of them foreign tourists. He ordered closed borders and lockdowns during the COVID pandemic, resulting in a relatively low number of deaths, around 2,500, in New Zealand.

His decisive and compassionate style of leadership served him well politically. In the 2020 election, his popularity turned his coalition with other parties into an unprecedented overall majority for Labor in New Zealand’s proportional representation system.

Avoid humiliation

Perhaps New Zealand voters are now as tired as their prime minister. Opinion polls suggest Ms Ardern has now avoided humiliation by resigning. In the upcoming general election, most observers expect his Labor Party to lose power to the centre-right National Party.

As elsewhere, inflation in New Zealand is high. Ms Ardern admitted this week that she faces challenges in her chosen domestic “agenda focusing on housing, child poverty and climate change”.

Only 17 of the world’s 195 nations have female heads of government. Well less than 10%.

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Jacinda Ardern’s legacy as Prime Minister of New Zealand

Ms Ardern was only the second female head of government, after the late Benazir Bhutto, to give birth while in office. In her joint appearance with Prime Minister Marin, Ms Ardern accepted that she had a responsibility as a female leader to women facing “serious situations” in countries such as Iran, and that she would “make sure stand that every woman and girl in the whole world has equal rights and equal opportunities as men”.

This is still not the case in the Westminster Parliament. Noting that only one in four Conservative MPs are women, Baroness Jenkin described Boris Johnson’s boasted 50:50 target as “good words but little real engagement”.

Confronting sexism in Parliament

Ms Ardern will be missed by the Council of World Women Leaders as its most prominent member following the retirement of Angela Merkel. Like her counterpart in Australia, she faced sexism from her opponents in parliament. Unlike Julia Gillard, she didn’t have to make a famous speech attacking abuse.

Instead, he apologized for calling the ACT NZ leader “an arrogant prick” when he asked, “Can the Prime Minister give us an example of making a mistake, properly apologizing for it and fixing it? are?”.

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Arden eliminated the gender question.

Ms Ardern’s qualities as a political leader are not unique to women, although they are often found there. The same is true of the modesty with which she stepped back from office: “I’m human, politicians are human. We give as much as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”

Read more:
From jacindamania to empty tanks, how New Zealand’s prime minister’s compassion defined his role
Why Jacinda Ardern’s ‘rare’ confession about her mental health issues
Ardern’s tirade on a New Zealand opposition MP caught Mike’s hot moment.

In political terms, Ms Ardern could be described as akin to a “Blairite”. In the nineties, he also worked on his government’s policies at the Cabinet Office in London. She never met Tony Blair after that. When he did a few years later, he challenged him on the invasion of Iraq.

Ms Ardern hopes to live to see New Zealand become a republic, but she attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral with her partner and their daughter wearing a Maori cape.

Maybe Jacinda Ardern will return to politics in a few years, maybe she’ll be offered an international post, maybe she won’t. Either way, she is sure of an enduring place as a star on the political scene. He may have already written his own: “Someone who always tried to be kind”.

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