For more than five years, she has been the global face of a different kind of leadership, combining decisiveness with compassion, with a healthy dose of humor and a refreshing human touch. But when she resigned as New Zealand’s prime minister Thursday, Jacinda Ardern’s face looked gaunter and more drawn than usual, perhaps revealing the strain of having governed the country through the Christchurch shooting in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic that came a year later.
Ardern forthrightly admitted that she “no longer has enough in the tank” to continue as prime minister, stepping away after months in which she and her center-left Labor party had consistently lost ground in polling to the center-right National party. Ardern said she would leave office by Feb. 7, after which Labor will select a new leader who will become prime minister until general elections in October.
For her global audience, Ardern could do no wrong, from the empathy she displayed in embracing the families of the Christchurch victims to the grace she displayed in juggling her duties as prime minister with those of being a new mother. But back home in New Zealand, inflation and lingering divisions due to some of her pandemic-era decisions had removed much of the shine since 2020, when she won a landslide reelection victory and a rare single-party parliamentary majority.