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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he is surprised by the announcement that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be stepping down from her position, describing her as a "steadfast friend" to Singapore.
Ardern announced her resignation on Thursday (Jan. 19). In a personal statement on her Facebook page, she announced that she will not be seeking re-election and will conclude her current term no later than Feb. 7.
Strong partnership between S'pore & New Zealand
In a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan. 19), PM Lee praised Ardern's "dedication and leadership" as PM, particularly highlighting her contributions in leading her country through crises such as Covid-19 and the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 that left 51 people dead.
He also added that Singapore and New Zealand "upgraded our excellent ties during her first official visit in 2019 with the establishment of the SG-NZ Enhanced Partnership (EP)".
PM Lee said that he had met her many times online and in person.
He added that they both "kept in touch regularly during the pandemic to share experiences and exchange notes, and ensure that supply lines stayed open between our countries."
New Zealand had sent essential items to Singapore when Covid-19 hit and pledged to ensure that trade lines for essential items would be kept open under a Declaration between the two countries.
PM Lee thanked Ardern for her "strong partnership, support and good humour," adding that she is "an inspiration to many."
He concluded his post by giving Ardern some well-wishes. "I wish her and her family all the best! Mā te wā!" he said, using the Maori phrase for see you next time.
A leader to replace Ardern
Ardern's Labour Party will vote for a new leader on Sunday (Jan. 22).
If no potential successor garner two-thirds of the party's support, the vote will go to the party's lay membership.
Grant Robertson, the deputy prime minister, immediately ruled himself out of the running.
When a leader is successfully elected, a new PM will be sworn in by February 7.
The new party leader will likely continue as the PM until the next general election, which will take place on Oct 14.
Top image via MCI
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