New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces resignation

Jacinda Ardern Resigns ©Warren Buckland/New Zealand Herald

She had been expected to set an election date but shocked reporters by declaring her exit from politics, all the while fighting back tears.

Ardern announced that she would be stepping down as prime minister effective from the 7th of February but will remain as an MP until the October elections. In 2017, Ardern made history at the age of 37 by becoming the country's youngest prime minister in over 150 years, and the world’s youngest female head of government.

Now the race is on for the Labour party to choose its new head and several MP’s including Ardern’s Finance and deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson, have ruled themselves out of the running.

A caucus vote for the new Labour Party leader will happen on Sunday.

Ardern's leadership has impressed many - domestically and globally - steering her country through its worst terror attack, the pandemic and the 2019 white Island volcano eruption.

In 2018 the city of Christchurch was rocked by a mass shooting in two of its Mosques, which was carried out and livestreamed on social media by an Australian white supremacist, who killed 51 people.

While she led her party in a landslide victory in 2020, recently Ardern’s domestic popularity has been falling, in part due to a backlog of unfulfilled electoral promises. The latest opinion polls put her personal popularity at its lowest since she was elected, and approval of her party's performance similarly low.

Reactions to her surprise announcement have been varied, going from praise to condescension, with some slamming the misogyny and bullies after she became increasingly the target of threats of violence, particularly from conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine groups for her pandemic and vaccine policies.

Ardern has stressed that the threats and declining popularity were not the reasons for her stepping down and said she has no regrets and would like to be remembered as someone who always tried to be kind.

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© Euronews