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New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday (Jan. 19) that she is not seeking re-election, and will conclude her current term by Feb. 7 at the latest.
Ardern, who became the world's youngest female leader at 37 when she assumed her role in 2017, announced her decision to step down at a Labour Party retreat.
She also announced the next General Election date for New Zealand — Oct. 14, 2023.
However, she said she plans to remain as the Member of Parliament for her constituency, Mt Albert, through April, explaining that this would help "spare them and the country" from needing to go through a by-election.
She also posted a personal statement on her Facebook page, in which she outlined her thoughts on her term thus far, as she entered its sixth year.
"Politicians are human"
Ardern said she expected "much discussion" over the "real" reason for her decision to step down, and explained that it was because she no longer felt she had the capacity to continue in the role.
"I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time," she wrote.
She also reflected on the job of leading a country, and called it "the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging."
She added that she had hoped to "find a way to prepare for not just another year, but another term," but was not able to do so over the summer.
Challenges in her term
Ardern said her term as Prime Minister had been "the most fulfilling five and a half years" of her life, but highlighted the challenges she had to deal with in leading the country through various crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
These were "some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of our nation arguably since World War Two," she wrote.
"The decisions that had to be made have been continual, and they have been weighty."
The crises Ardern had to oversee included the Christchurch shootings in 2019, a deadly volcano eruption on New Zealand's White Island, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also led her party to a landslide victory at New Zealand's general election in October 2020.
Looking forward to time with family
Ardern said she was looking forward to time with her family, saying they were arguably "the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us" and taking a moment to address her child, and fiancé, Clarke Gayford.
"Let's finally get married," she said.
The duo had previously planned to marry in January 2022, but put it off due to public health restrictions in light of an Omicron wave.
Ardern's party will need to appoint a new leader, and she outlined the process by which this would happen, while promising to help the party "navigate this next phase" and give her successor "all the space they need to make their mark."
"I want to finish with a simple thank you to New Zealanders for giving me this opportunity to serve, and to take on what has and will always be the greatest role in my life.
I hope in return I leave behind a belief that you can be kind, but strong. Empathetic, but decisive. Optimistic, but focused.
That you can be your own kind of leader - one that knows when it’s time to go."
Top image screenshot via Jacinda Ardern on Facebook
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