New Zealand’s Ardern to leave office, sets Oct election

36

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose empathetic handling of the nation’s worst mass-shooting and health-driven response to the coronavirus pandemic led her to become an international icon but who faced mounting criticism at home, said Thursday she was leaving office.

Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters in Napier that Feb. 7 will be her last day as prime minister.

“I am entering now my sixth year in office, and for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,” she said.

She also announced that New Zealand’s next general elections would be held on Oct. 14, and that she would remain a lawmaker until then.

It’s unclear who will take over as prime minister until the election. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson announced he wouldn’t be contesting for the leadership of the Labour Party, throwing the competition open.

Ardern described her job as among the most privileged but challenging and said doing it required having a reserve to face the unexpected. She said she no longer had that reserve to serve another term.

She said her time in office has been fulfilling but challenging. “But I am not leaving because it was hard. —Agencies