WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who won global praise for her empathetic leadership style and was seen by many liberals as a young, center-left antidote to populist politics elsewhere, announced her resignation Thursday.
Ardern, 42, said she had decided, after a Southern Hemisphere summer break, that she no longer had enough left in the “tank” to contest national elections later this year. “I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time,” she told reporters.
Her 5½ years as leader were among the most challenging in the country’s modern history. She won praise for her calm stewardship of the Pacific nation through major events including the 2019 terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, a volcanic eruption and the coronavirus pandemic.
More recently, however, domestic sentiment toward her government has soured as the island nation emerges from a long period of pandemic isolation and faces the prospect of a recession. She was also subjected to repeated misogynistic abuse, which escalated during the pandemic.
Here are some of the major events that contributed to the “Jacindamania” phenomenon.
The Christchurch terrorist attack
In March 2019, a gunman killed more than 50 people and injured dozens in attacks at two mosques in the southern city of Christchurch. The event shocked New Zealanders, who had not previously experienced deadly violence on such a scale.
A day after the attacks, she wore a Muslim-style headscarf known as a hijab as she visited the country’s refugee and Muslim community, tearfully telling them that the whole country was “united in grief.” She gained the respect of many Muslims at home and abroad for her empathy, and her refusal to speak the name of the attacker, who had shared white-supremacist views online and live-streamed the slaughter on Facebook.
“I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she told Parliament at the time.