New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern, an icon to many, to step down
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 would 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 2023 general elections would be held on Oct. 14, and that she would remain a lawmaker until then.
Her announcement came as a shock to people throughout the nation of 5 million people. Although there had been some chatter in political circles that Ardern might resign before the next election, she'd always maintained she planned to run again.
It's unclear who will take over as prime minister until the election. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson announced that he won't contest the leadership of the Labour Party, throwing the competition open.
Ardern became an inspiration to women around the world after winning the top job in 2017 at the relatively young age of 37. The following year, she became just the second world leader to give birth while holding office. When she brought her infant daughter to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in 2018, it brought smiles to people everywhere.
In March 2019, Ardern faced one of the darkest days in New Zealand's history when a white supremacist gunman stormed two mosques in Christchurch and slaughtered 51 people. She was widely praised for the way she embraced the survivors and New Zealand's Muslim community in the aftermath.