Jacinda Ardern has announced her resignation as the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The Labour Party leader will step down on February 7, 2023, after almost 6 years in office. According to reports, the government will vote for her replacement on Sunday, 22 January.
The shocking news before the October elections has drawn a polarizing reaction from the masses. She was a symbol of compassion for many but also a disappointment for others. While being a political celebrity on the global stage, Ardern was not much popular back home. Local opinion polls showed that the National Party has overtaken Labour’s graph since April 2022.
On the other hand, a video has been going viral on social media showing New Zealand folks reacting joyously to Ardern’s emotional farewell speech.
Jacinda Ardern’s Resignation Shocks the World
As “Good Riddance” started trending on social websites in response to Jacinda Arden’s resignation, many came in support of the outgoing PM. Ardern became the youngest woman world leader when she was elected as a PM in 2017 at the age of 37. She gained massive backing after steering the country through a series of crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, recession, Christchurch attacks, and the White Island volcano eruption. She was also the second-ever head of government to give birth during service. The first was Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.
Her supporters thanked her for inspiring so many women and girls across the world. They cited her courage, empathy and kindness as exemplary for any reigning or aspiring leader regardless of gender. As a woman in a male-dominated playground, she received worldwide praise for performing her duties while tolerating constant abuse, misogyny, and bigotry.
Progressive and left-wing groups have referred to Jacinda Arden’s resignation to highlight the importance of having a support system for women in leadership.
No More Left in the Tank
Speaking to the media, Ardern said she couldn’t find the “heart and energy” to carry on as the PM. She held back her tears explaining how dealing with the “crises” had taken its toll. Ardern also left a message for her fellow citizens hoping that they would be “kind, but strong”, “empathetic but decisive”, and “optimistic but focused”. Adding that they could be their own version of leader, the “one who knows when it is time to go”.
Over the course of 2022, Ardern’s popularity at home saw a sharp decline. She has often been a target of online right-wing extremism but more increasingly so after her response to the 2019 Christchurch attacks. The entire world praised Ardern’s efforts in meeting the affected Muslim community. Within weeks after the massacre, she banned all military-grade semi-automatic guns. It is the total opposite policy of the US, where it is nearly impossible for lawmakers to ban guns despite regular shooting incidents. Ardern was also one of the first leaders to implement a zero-COVID strategy for keeping New Zealand deaths lower than other countries.
She was glorified in the international media but there was a whole other story back home. Her opponents hold her Christchurch response as her only “success” as the PM. Moreover, many also condemned her decision to lock down the entire country over a single COVID case. Her ratings continued to drop over time as the nation suffered the cost of living crises, housing crises, and rising crime rates. Meanwhile, she faced countless threats of violence from anti-vaxxers and conspiracy activists over her vaccine mandate and lockdowns.
It was Time to Step Down
Critics also accused Ardern of “running away” before the elections to avoid getting “kicked out”. However, she made it clear in the speech that political adversity was not one of the reasons to quit the job. In the end, she said she gave the country all she had and now it was time for her to go.
Social media users pointed out how Ardern was full of grace, which was missing in most world leaders. They admired how Ardern accepted her failures to allow someone else a chance, unlike most western male leaders who remained selfish till the end.