The world’s most prominent female politician will leave office before her 43rd birthday, as the US contemplates a presidential election between two octogenarians.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minster, announced at a North Island news conference that she will be stepping down in just over two weeks. She made this shocking announcement on February 7, 2007.
The New Zealand Labour Party will elect a new leader in the interim. In April, Ms Ardern will be replaced in Mount Albert by a by-election. Ms. Ardern also stated that she would call a general election for October 2014.
Five and a quarter years of Ms. Ardern’s political leadership and the way she left it were unique, and will continue to be the subject of much discussion for many years.
However, she will be out from politics by the summer and her future plans are unclear beyond this message to her daughter, Neve Gayford, five years old, and Clarke Gayford, a TV presenter: “To Neve, Mum looks forward to being there when your school starts this year. Clarke, let’s get married!
Ms. Ardern did not break any records for her sex and age in New Zealand or internationally. After Jenny Shipley, Ms Ardern was followed by Helen Clark, who she worked for.
But Ms. Ardern, who was just 37 years old, has been a shining star since her 2017 debut as prime minister of a coalition. Many outside New Zealand became entangled in Jacindamania, seeing this self-described “progressive” woman as the antithesis of populist authoritarian men like Donald Trump.
She was featured quickly on the covers of Vogue and Time magazines. Not bad for a leader in a country of only five million people.
Ms. Ardern was adamant about comments that focused on her femininity. Reporters who suggested that she was holding the first New Zealand bilateral with Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, were wrong. She stated, “I wonder if anyone ever asked Barack Obama or John Key if they had met as they were both of the same age.”
After displaying a placard calling her a “Pretty Communist”, a farmer apologized publicly.
“You can be kind but strong”
The tearful news conference that Ms. Ardern held to announce her resignation could not have been more Trumpian. She stated her reasons clearly: “I know the job it takes. And I know I don’t have enough fuel to do it justice. It’s as simple as that.
She ended her statement by thanking New Zealanders of their “the greatest role” in her life. I wish to leave behind the belief that you are kind and strong. Empathetic, but decisive. Optimistic, but focused. You can be your own leader, one who knows when it’s time for you to move.
Ms. Ardern’s two terms as a leader have been intense. She noted that “we faced a… domestic terror incident, a major disaster, an economic crisis, and a global pandemic.”
After the Christchurch shooting attack that left 51 people dead, she unites the nation in March 2019.
While insisting that the perpetrator’s name should not be used she stated of Muslim victims: “They were us.”
She had an equally strong message and inclusive message in December 2001 when 21 people died when White Island’s Whakaari volcano erupted. She ordered the COVID pandemic to be closed down and locked down, which resulted in some 2,500 deaths in New Zealand.
Politically, her decisive and empathic style of leadership was a great asset. Her popularity helped her to form a coalition with other parties and win an unprecedented overall majority for Labour under New Zealand’s proportional representative system.
Perhaps New Zealand’s voters feel as tired as their prime minister. According to opinion polls, Ms Ardern is now able to avoid humiliation and has resigned. Most observers predict that her Labour party will lose the office at the next general election. The right-of-centre National Party will win.
In New Zealand, inflation is high as elsewhere. Ms Ardern acknowledged this week that there were challenges in delivering her domestic “agenda” on housing, child poverty, and climate change.
Only 17 out of the 195 countries in the world have female heads of government. It is well below 10%.
After Benazir Bhuto, Ms Ardern was the second female head government after her. Ms Ardern, along with Prime Minister Marin, acknowledged that she and Marin had a responsibility to female leaders in Iran for women who are facing “dire circumstances”. She also stated that they stand “to ensure that every girl and woman around the world has the same rights as men.”
Even in Westminster, this is not the case. Baroness Jenkin noted that only one of four Conservative MPs is female and dismissed Boris Johnson’s boasted goal 50:50 as “fine language but very little engagement”.
Sexism in Parliament
The Council of World Women Leaders will miss Ms Ardern, as she was its most prominent member after Angela Merkel’s retirement. She encountered sexism from her Australian counterpart, but unlike Julia Gillard, she didn’t need to make a famous speech condemning misogyny.
Instead, she apologized for calling the leader of ACT NZ “an arrogant prick”, after he asked: “Can the prime minister provide us with an example of making a wrong, apologizing for it properly, and fixing it?” “.
Although Ms. Ardern’s qualities are more common in women, they are also found in men. She resigned from office with the same modesty: “I am human, and politicians are human.” We do our best to give as much as possible for as long as it takes. Then it’s time. It’s time for me.
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Politically, Ms Ardern can be described as something like a “Blairite”. She worked in London’s Cabinet office on Tony Blair’s government policies during the Noughties. Tony Blair was then a distant acquaintance. She met him a few years later when he was defending the invasion of Iraq.
Ms Ardern hopes that she will live to see New Zealand become an independent country. She attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral with her partner and their daughter wearing a Maori cape.
Maybe Jacinda Ardern will make a comeback to politics in a few more years. Perhaps she will be offered an international job. She’ll be remembered as a political star for years to come. She might have already written her own epitaph: “Someone who always tried hard to be kind.”