By NICK PERRY
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who became a global icon of the left and exemplified a new style of leadership, said Thursday that she would leave office.
Just 37 when she became leader, Ardern was praised around the world for her handling of the nation’s worst-ever mass shooting and the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. But she faced mounting political pressures at home and a level of vitriol from some that hadn’t been experienced by previous New Zealand leaders.
Still, her announcement came as a shock throughout the nation of 5 million people.
Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters in Napier that Feb. 7 would be her last day as prime minister after five and a half years in office.
“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she said.
Lawmakers in her Labour Party will vote for a new leader on Sunday.
Ardern became an inspiration to women around the world after first winning the top job in 2017. She seemed to herald a new generation of leadership — she was on the verge of being a millennial, had spun some records as a part-time DJ, and wasn’t married like most politicians.
In 2018, Ardern became just the second world leader to give birth while holding office. Later that year, she brought her infant daughter to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
She notched up center-left victories while right-wing populism was on the rise globally, pushing pushed through a bill targeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, overseeing a ban on assault weapons, and largely keeping the coronavirus out of New Zealand for 18 months.