Jacinda Ardern’s resignation says a lot about New Zealand politics


After nearly six years leading New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s term as Prime Minister will end on February 7, as will her Labor Party. decline in opinion polls The country appears poised for a recession.

It is also the end of at least one phase of her international fame. Ardern became famous not because of the primacy of New Zealand in the international system, but because of her identity, and her specific responses to the national and international disasters that defined her tenure. Her leadership was celebrated through Mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurchand through the Covid-19 crisis — two moments that put them in stark contrast to flowery autocracy. Leaders such as former US President Donald Trump and Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, in addition to making her an icon for young women in leadership.

Citing fatigue after five and a half years in office, Ardern announced Thursday that she will step down before the end of her term and not seek re-election. “I know there will be a lot of discussion in the aftermath of this decision about the so-called ‘real’ mind,” She said at a news conference Thursday. “The only interesting angle you’ll find is that after six years of some great challenges, I’m human.”

Ardern wasn’t the first female prime minister in New Zealand’s history, but she was the youngest prime minister ever to give birth while in office, catapulting her into the international spotlight as a young feminist leader at one point – at least in many Western countries and the United States specifically. Privilege – when older men seemed to retain their hold on power despite social progress.

But domestic politics, not international acclaim, determines a country’s leadership within a democracy, and Ardern’s Labor Party has fallen in the polls as the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis begins to take hold. New Zealand’s post-Covid economy is tipping into recession, and child poverty – one of Ardern’s reasons – continues to rise, much to the chagrin of left and right alike.

With every conceivable measure, Ardern met the moment during the two major crises that defined her administration, and her talents for communication, empathy, and collaboration were perfectly suited to those crises. She remained popular within the Labor Party and was, until recently, more popular than the party as a whole in public opinion polls. However, as economic conditions change and New Zealanders eager to move on from Covid-19, Ardern’s counterpart in the Conservative National Party, Christopher Loxon, is gaining ground in opinion polls, suggesting that Labor won the majority in 2020 That could end in October, when Ardern calls an election.

Although Ardern’s announcement surprised international observers, it may have been less of a shock to New Zealanders, Kathy Smits, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, told Vox. “The historical example that really comes to my mind, and to many people, is in post-war Britain— [Winston] Churchill was voted out in 1945. He had led Britain through the war and was an incredibly popular Prime Minister, and yet people were ready for change.” “I think in this environment, something similar is going on there.”

New Zealand is ready for change, as are many countries around the world

Ardern has rightfully received international acclaim for her response to Shooting 2019 at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, killing 51 people. was a shooter Of the neo-Nazis and the white nationalist who used semi-automatic weapons to carry out the slaughter. Ardern immediately came into contact with the Muslim community and the government complied Pay funeral costs for the victims. Her decisive, passionate and empathetic response made her prominence on the international stage early in her leadership. Her proposal was shot shortly after Ban semi-automatic weaponsShe has also shown her ability to act boldly in the public interest.

That was in particularly stark contrast to the United States, which, despite its constant mass shootings, was also largely Failed to bring about meaningful change in policyexcept A bill for ad hoc reforms was passed last year.

“The thing that Jacinda is really great about is communication — kind of the symbolic dimension of leadership, which brings people together. She’s really good at that,” Smits said.

But as important as Ardern’s global profile is, there is no getting around the hard facts of domestic democratic politics. Inflation continues to hit economies around the world; In New Zealand, this is particularly the case in the housing market. Many New Zealanders earn their income through real estate – owning and renting property. But Smits explained that the skyrocketing housing prices, along with high interest rates, had paralyzed this sector of the New Zealand economy and helped push the country toward recession. The housing market has also shrunk, making it much easier It is difficult for many New Zealanders to find affordable housing.

Ardern also failed to make much progress Child poverty in New Zealand, which is among the highest in the Western world. “It’s really at very appalling levels,” Smits said. particularly among the Maori and Pacific population. Although the Ardern administration managed to marginally reduce the proportion of children in poverty during its tenure, critics argue that the government You haven’t gone far enoughEspecially since it was one of them major policy issues.

Furthermore, New Zealand has a fairly low tax rate, although taxes or some form of income is needed to fund social programs such as the sorts that would help alleviate child poverty. But Ardern’s party refused to tax capital gains on income – and Ardern said so Such a tax increase would never happen under her leadership.

These domestic issues made Labor weak on the right and left. More progressive politicians and voters, Smits said, are disappointed with the party’s inability to make real and significant progress on social issues—in part because the government has refused to take action to raise funds that would support social programmes.

But the upcoming election may be more than a defeat for the Labor Party, it may be more than a return to form the New Zealand Parliament, which operates on the basis of Mixed proportional system. This means that no party is likely to get an overwhelming and clear majority of seats, which would require a coalition government.

After several years of crisis within the opposition leader National Party Christopher Luxon Smits said he appeared to have strengthened his party’s position enough to attract some defectors from the Labor Party, although it was too early to know the outcome of the upcoming election.

New Zealand is not alone in ready for change; Former Brazilian President Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva overthrew Brazilian President Bolsonaro last year. In Italy, far-right Giorgia Meloni replaced technocratic Prime Minister Mario Draghi last year, and in 2021 German Chancellor Angela Merkel resigned after 16 years in power.

Ardern’s influence is significant and likely to outweigh the shortcomings of her government

Western feminists have embraced Ardern, and rightly so, as a politics of balance between strength and compassion. A woman has given birth to a child while also leading her country through some of the most challenging years in recent memory.

like leaders Hillary ClintonDirector-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusand former Australian Prime Minister Julia gelard chirp In support of Ardern and the influence of her time in office, with Gillard saying, “Her example has been a shining light to many, especially women.”

Ardern’s symbolic influence, as well as her leadership, is likely to be a major part of her legacy. Ardern took her baby, Nevi, to the UN General Assembly meeting in 2018, when she was just three months old — making history in the process. She was the first elected female president to give birth in office since then Benazir Bhutto He did the same in 1990, doing so for the second all-time.

Ardern’s style is also a marked shift from not only the machismo of authoritarian leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro, but also the combative nature of politics in general, as Richard Shaw, a professor of politics at Massey University in New Zealand, says. he told NBC Thursday.

“I think what you presented to the world was actually an example of practicing democratic politics that does not depend on offending others,” Xu said. “You never used the term ‘enemy’ to describe anyone.”

Xu said that while she may not have been the driving force behind her resignation, this specific leadership style has also been brought into focus. “The political right, misogynists in particular, anti-vaccinationists and marginalized populations in our political community” in Ardern.

It’s impossible to tell what Ardern’s legacy will be, but her strength as a symbol of not only a successful leader — who’s also a woman and mother — had the same impact as former President Barack Obama’s election as America’s first black president. Both set a new standard for progress, even if their domestic policies fell short of progressive ideals. But more than just being a woman, mother, and world leader, she has provided a compelling example of how leaders can act and make decisions, even difficult ones, with clarity and compassion.





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