NZ PM to step down next month after 6 yrs in power

by IANS |

Wellington, Jan 19 (IANS) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced that she will step down next month after being in power for six years, saying she no longer has "enough in the tank" to lead.

"I had hoped that I would find what I needed to carry on over that period but, unfortunately, I haven't, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue," the BBC quoted the Prime Minister as saying to reporters.

Ardern, who became the youngest female head of government in the world when she was elected Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37, said that the six "challenging" years in the job had taken a toll.

"It's one thing to lead your country through peace time, it's another to lead them through crisis," she said.

"These events... have been taxing because of the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them. There's never really been a moment where it's ever felt like we were just governing."

She will step down as Labour Party leader no later than February 7, following which there will be a vote in the coming days to determine her replacement.

New Zealand will hold a general election on October 14.

Ardern steered New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing recession, the Christchurch mosque shootings, and the White Island volcanic eruption, reports the BBC.

In 2020, she led her Labour Party to a landslide victory, but her domestic popularity has declined to new lows in recent months, according to opinion polls.

In her address to the media, Ardern said she was not resigning because she believed Labour could not win the election, but because she thought it would.

"We need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge," she said.

The 42-year-old also listed her government's achievements on climate change, social housing and reducing child poverty as ones she was particularly proud of.

But she said she hoped New Zealanders would remember her "as someone who always tried to be kind".

"I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader -- one who knows when it's time to go," she said.

Meanwhile, Deputy leader Grant Robertson said he would not contest the leadership vote, which will occur on Sunday.

If one candidate cannot garner the support of two-thirds of the party room, the vote will go to Labour's lay membership.

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