Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has announced her resignation ahead of the 14 October election.
Ardern quoted that she “no longer had enough in the tank” to lead the country.
“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so called ‘real’ reason was,” she added.
“The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human. 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.”
Ardern, 42, became the youngest female head of government in the world when she was elected in 2017 at the age of 37.
During her tenure, Ardern led New Zealand through the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing recession, the Christchurch Mosque shootings, and the White Island volcanic eruption. She described the past five-and-a-half years as the “most fulfilling” of her life but leading the country through “crisis” was difficult.
The announcement came as polls indicate that her Labour Party is facing a difficult path to re-election. Despite her global popularity, opinion polls suggest she was increasingly unpopular at home.
Ardern, however, stressed that she is not resigning due to her or her party’s lack of popularity. “I am not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election but because I believe we can and will, and we need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge,” she said.
Ardern’s party members will vote for her replacement on 22 January, and if no one garners the support of two-thirds of the party room, the vote will go to Labour’s lay membership.
Ardern will step down by 7 February.
READ: New Zealand sets out plan to eliminate HIV transmission
As her resignation takes effect, leaders around the world have praised Ardern for her leadership and service to New Zealand. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Ardern as a leader of “intellect, strength, and empathy”, while Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said she had made an “immeasurable” difference to the world.
Despite the challenges and difficulties that Ardern faced during her tenure, she hopes her legacy in New Zealand will be “as someone who always tried to be kind,” she said.