After nearly six years of leading New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s term as prime minister ends on February 7 as her Labor Party slips in the polls and New Zealand appears to have Get ready for a recession.
It was also the end of at least one phase of her international fame. Ardern is famous not for New Zealand’s primacy in the international order, but for who she is and her specific responses to the domestic and international disasters that have defined her tenure.She has been praised for her leadership during the white supremacist mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques and during the Covid-19 crisis – moments that set her in stark contrast to the bombastic, authoritarian Leaders like former US President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, in addition to making her a symbol of young women’s leadership.
Citing burnout after five-and-a-half years in office, Ardern announced on Thursday that she would step down before the end of her term and would not seek re-election. “I know that after this decision is made, there will be a lot of discussion about what the so-called ‘real’ reason is,” she said at a news conference on Thursday. “The only interesting angle you’ll find is, After six years of some big challenges, I’m human.”
Ardern wasn’t New Zealand’s first female prime minister, but she was the youngest ever and gave birth to a child while in office, further thrusting her into the international spotlight as a young feminist leader – at least in many Western countries and especially the US – older men still seem to hold power despite progress.
But domestic politics, not international acclaim, determine a country’s leadership among democracies, and Ardern’s Labor party has plummeted in opinion polls as the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis began. New Zealand’s post-Covid economy is headed for recession and child poverty – one of Ardern’s reasons – continues to rise, drawing discontent from both the left and the right.
By every conceivable metric, Ardern has hit this moment in the midst of two major crises that have defined her government, for which her gifts of communication, empathy and collaboration are a perfect fit. She remains popular within the Labor Party and, until recently, outranked the entire party in opinion polls. However, with the changing economic environment and Kiwis eager to shake off Covid-19, Ardern’s opponent in the Conservative National Party, Christopher Luxon, has gained ground in the polls, suggesting Labor’s majority in 2020 could There will be an end to October, when Ardern calls for an election.
Kathy Smits, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, told Vox that while Ardern’s statement came as a surprise to international observers, it might not have come as a shock to New Zealanders. “The historical example that I and a lot of people really think of is post-war Britain — [Winston] Churchill was voted out in 1945. He took Britain through the war and was a very popular prime minister, but people were ready for a change,” she said. “I think in this environment, something like that is going to happen there. ”
Like much of the world, New Zealand is ready for change
Ardern has won international praise for her response to the 2019 shootings at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque and Lynnwood Islamic Centre, which killed 51 people. The shooter, an avowed neo-Nazi and white nationalist, used a semi-automatic weapon to carry out the massacre. Ardern immediately got in touch with the Muslim community and promised that the government would pay for the victims’ funeral expenses. Her decisive but emotional and empathetic responses catapulted her to the international stage early in her leadership. Her proposal to ban semi-automatic weapons soon after the shooting also demonstrated her ability to take bold action in the public interest.
This is in stark contrast to the U.S., which, despite continued mass shootings, has largely Failed to enact meaningful policy changes unless a tailor-made reform bill was passed last year.
“What’s really, really great about Jacinda is communication—a symbolic dimension of leadership that brings people together. She’s really good at that,” Smits said.
But as important as Ardern’s global image is, there is no escaping the harsh reality of domestic democracy. Inflation continues to hit the global economy; in New Zealand, this is playing out especially in the property market. Many New Zealanders earn income through real estate – owning and renting properties. But soaring house prices, combined with high interest rates, have crippled that sector of the New Zealand economy and helped push the country toward recession, Smits explained. It has also squeezed the housing market, making it difficult for many New Zealanders to find affordable housing.
Ardern has also failed to make significant progress on child poverty in New Zealand, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the Western world. “It’s really reaching alarming levels,” Smits said, especially among Māori and Pacific Islanders. While Ardern’s government has managed to slightly reduce the proportion of children living in poverty during its tenure, critics say it has not done enough, especially given that it is one of her main policy concerns.
Also, tax rates in New Zealand are fairly low, although taxes or some form of revenue are required to fund social programs that help alleviate child poverty. But Ardern’s party rejects a capital gains tax on income – something Ardern says would never happen under her leadership.
These domestic problems leave Labor vulnerable on both the left and the right; more progressive politicians and voters are dismayed by the party’s failure to make real and significant progress on social issues – partly because the government refuses to take the necessary steps to raise funds to support social programs, Smits said.
But perhaps not just a defeat for Labor, the next election could be more of a return to form for New Zealand’s parliament, which operates under a mixed membership system. That means neither party is likely to secure a clear majority, which would require a coalition government.
Smits said that after years of crisis within the National Party, Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon appeared to have consolidated his party sufficiently enough to win over some Labor defectors, although the next election was now said to be closed. The results are still too early.
It’s not just New Zealand that’s ready for change; Brazil’s Bolsonaro was ousted last year by former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. In Italy, far-right Giorgia Meloni replaced technocratic Chancellor Mario Draghi last year, while longtime German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in power after 16 years. Retires in 2021.
Ardern’s impact is huge and likely to outweigh her government’s inadequacies
Western feminists embrace Ardern, and rightly so, as a politician who balances power with compassion; a woman who has given birth while also leading her country through the worst crisis in recent memory. Challenging few years.
leaders like Hillary ClintonDirector-General of the World Health Organization Tan Desaiand former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard tweets In support of Ardern and her impact in office, Gillard said: “Her example has been a shining light to many, especially women.”
.@jacindaardern By deciding to highlight kindness and empathy, he showed the world a new style of leadership. Her example is a beacon to many, especially women. I congratulate her on what she has achieved so far and wish her the best in the next phase of her life.
– Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) January 19, 2023
Ardern’s symbolic influence, alongside her leadership, is likely to be an important part of her legacy. Ardern brought her baby Neve to the UN General Assembly in 2018 when she was just three months old – making history in the process. She is the first elected leader since Benazir Bhutto in 1990 to give birth while in office, and only the second ever.
As Richard Shaw, a professor of political science at New Zealand’s Massey University, told NBC on Thursday, Ardern’s style is not only markedly different from the machismo of authoritarian leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro, but also from political politics. Usually aggressive is of a different nature.
“I think what she’s offering the world is actually a model of democratic politics that doesn’t depend on abusing people,” Shaw said. “She never used the word ‘enemy’ to describe anyone.”
Shaw said that while it may not have been the driving force behind her resignation, she was also fascinated by this particular style of leadership “The political right, especially misogynists, and anti-vaccine and fringe people in our political communities” on Ardern.
It is impossible to know what Ardern’s legacy will be, but her strength is not only a symbol of a successful leader – she is also a woman and a mother – arguably on par with former President Barack Obama’s election to America’s first A black president has the same impact. Both set new standards for progress, even if their domestic policies fell short of progressive ideals. But more than just being a woman, a mother, and a world leader, she exemplifies a compelling example of how leaders can act and make decisions with clarity and compassion, even when It is difficult decision.