19 Jan 2023

Jacinda Ardern resigns: Reactions from around the world

10:40 pm on 19 January 2023
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 19 January 2023 announcing that she will be stepping down as prime minister at Labour's caucus retreat in Napier.

Jacinda Ardern announces she is stepping down as prime minister. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Jacinda Ardern's sudden resignation as prime minister has made headlines not just in Aotearoa, but world-wide, and drawn tributes from international political figures.

The 42-year-old on Thursday said she would step down no later than 7 February, after five-and-a-half years in the top job. She promised to stay as MP for Mt Albert until April, to avoid a by-election ahead of the general election in October.

Her Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese said on Twitter she had "shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength".

"Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities," Albanese said.

"Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Jacinda Ardern for her partnership and friendship and her "empathic, compassionate, strong, and steady leadership over these past several years".

"The difference you have made is immeasurable. I'm wishing you and your family nothing but the best, my friend."

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Penny Wong called Ardern a source of inspiration to many, and thanked her for her friendship with Australia.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said Ardern led with strength, empathy and manaakitanga.

Fiji Deputy Prime Minister Biman Prasad said the Pacific would miss the "charismatic leader".

Under her leadership, Fiji had benefited immensely, especially when the nation faced difficult times, and Ardern provided "urgent and timely help to the Fijian people during natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic", Prasad said.

UK MP Darren Jones praised Ardern's leadership, and fellow British MP Dawn Butler, who was the first elected black female government minister in the UK, named Ardern as an inspiration.

Another UK MP, Sarah Champion, praised Ardern for the way she called time on her term as PM: "This is what a real leader looks like; recognising your capacity and putting the public first."

Former Australian Liberal Party leader and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull congratulated Ardern "on a great innings as PM of New Zealand.

"Your compassion and leadership have inspired all of us and you have always been a great ( although not an entirely uncritical) friend of Australia," Turnbull said.

Helen Clark, a former UN Development Programme administrator and former Labour leader and prime minister of New Zealand said she was "deeply saddened" by the news.

"Jacinda has done an amazing job leading NZ and always brought humanity, empathy, and intelligence to the job. Much to be said, but for now - just thank you."

Former First Lady of California Maria Shriver said she admired Ardern's honesty in her resignation.

"This makes me sad and it shows what a drain leading can be. Jacinda Ardern is an inspiring leader to so many of us and she will always be inspiring to me. I wish her all the best."

Former premier of South Australia Mike Rann said "Ardern showed the world that a small country could be a leader internationally; a leader in decency and in building bridges between people, cultures and religions at home and abroad.

"She also deserves enormous credit for her government's management of the Covid 19 crisis."

What international media are saying

The BBC led with the news. It said Ardern became: "the youngest female head of government in the world when she was elected prime minister in 2017, aged 37. And a year later she became the second world leader ever to give birth while in office.

"She has led New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, the Christchurch mosque shootings, and the White Island volcanic eruption.

"It's one thing to lead your country through peace time, it's another to lead them through crisis," she said. "These events... have been taxing because of the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them. There's never really been a moment where it's ever felt like we were just governing."

Reuters covered off the news with several angles, including who could be next in line to lead the party, and a Newsmaker piece which was headlined "Ardern leaves legacy of kindness, disappointments".

It included highlights such as her actions after the 15 March attacks, which made world headlines, motherhood, her upbringing, and a memorable quip after meeting Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

The report said: "Meeting with Marin in Wellington in November, Ardern shot back at a question on whether the two were meeting only because they were young and female.

"I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age," Ardern said, in reference to the former US president and New Zealand prime minister. "Because two women meet, it's not simply because of their gender."

The news quickly rose to the top of the Guardian website's front page, and the UK paper called it a "shock announcement".

The New York Times highlighted Ardern's strong reactions as she fronted media to make the announcement: "In a tearful announcement in the New Zealand city of Napier ... she said she did not feel emotionally equipped to complete another term..."

US conservative news outlet Fox News headlined the news with 'New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigns a month after hot mic insult', referencing the leader's incident last year in Parliament with ACT Party leader David Seymour. The rest of the story, though, discusses her achievements and the resignation press conference.

Al Jazeera also placed the story in a lead spot, focusing on Ardern's decision that it was time to step down, and the Labour party's challenge ahead to seek reelection.

The Japan Times said: "She was lauded on the world stage for her progressive views, her decisive action following domestic tragedy, and for remaining cool and composed under pressure - including during an earthquake that struck while she was live on air. But she faced far greater scrutiny domestically...

"A mounting housing crisis, the economic fallout from the pandemic and poverty alleviation remain issues of concern for voters, and in such areas the party were at times criticised for being ineffectual."

The headline run by Brazil's leading O Globo news outlet said Ardern had run out of gas and given up the top job: "Não tenho mais combustível", [I am out of gas].

The news quickly became the biggest story on three of Britain's top four tabloids, often known as "red tops" after their red mastheads. Ardern's resignation led the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and The Sun. Of the UK red tops only the Daily Star stayed away, leading with a "Love Island bombshell".

The Daily Mail said Ardern's decision had "shocked the world", but managed to find a place in its headline for her promise to finally wed long-time fiancé, Clarke Gayford.

The Mirror led with a huge splash on Ardern, like that of the Daily Mail. It highlighted the family element of the prime minister's resignation statement: "The PM addressed members of her own family during the tearful address, including a moment where she told her fiancé Clarke Gayford: "let's finally get married".

The Sun highlighted the emotional nature of the resignation. It described Ardern as giving an emotional press conference, holding back tears and delivering an emotional statement.

At the other end of the scale from the British red tops, both the Financial Times and The Economist gave prominence on their websites to the resignation.

The Economist said: "In a surprise announcement, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, said she would step down within the next three weeks. Ms Ardern was widely praised for her handling of the pandemic and for her response to a horrific terrorist attack on a Christchurch mosque in 2019. However her popularity has recently plummeted. In a tearful statement she said she did not have "enough in the tank" to continue leading the country. She was elected prime minister in 2017, aged just 37."

Australia's ABC also went with the word "shock", and focused on how Ardern struggled to hold back tears during the announcement.

The ABC later published an analysis piece which took a look at her "star appeal" and the challenges she has faced - including the christchurch terror attack, Whakaari/White Island eruption and the pandemic.

It also briefly touched on her election promises and social issues, like child poverty and the housing crisis, and the impact they've had on her popularity.

The Australian is leading with the resignation, and said Ardern faced "a brutal election year" but would now step down.

The Wall Street Journal highlighted Ardern's leadership through a series of crises but also pointed out the Labour-led government's stocks were falling, according to polls.

"Ms Ardern steered New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic and led the country during the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019.

"Opinion polls have shown Ms Ardern's centre-left Labour Party trailing the opposition National party, although her own standing with voters was higher than other political leaders. Results of one survey released last month by 1 News Kantar showed support for Labour had fallen to 33 percent, from 41 percent around a year earlier. National topped that poll with 38 percent," the Wall Street Journal's report said.

The Samoa Observer led with the announcement and gave prominence to the family dimension.

"[Ardern's] last visit to to Samoa as prime minister was in August last year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand."

French news agency Agence France-Presse tweeted out the news saying: "New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she will resign in February after having served as the South Pacific nation's leader for over five years. She told members of her Labour Party on Thursday that "for me it's time."

NBC News focused on the election campaign ahead of Ardern. It said: "Ardern had faced a tough election campaign this year. Her liberal Labour Party won re-election two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals ...

"She was lauded globally for her country's initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic after New Zealand managed for months to stop the virus at its borders. But its zero-tolerance strategy was abandoned once it was challenged by new variants and vaccines became available. She faced tougher criticism at home that the strategy was too strict," NBC said.

Canada's national newspaper The Globe and Mail said Ardern told the nation in a televised statement that she believed Labour would win the election.

Singapore's The Straits Times led with the news and like many other world news outlets focused on the phrase that the prime minister had little left in the tank for politics.

It also noted that: "Ms Ardern was expected to seek a third term at this year's general election, although she faced an uphill battle as memories fade of her strong leadership during the early stages of the pandemic and voters focus on the soaring cost of living and a darkening economic outlook."

The South China Morning Post, in Hong Kong, described the prime minister's resignation as a surprise announcement. "I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank. It's that simple," it quoted Ardern.

The Morning Post also gave background on Ardern: "Elected prime minister in 2017 at 37-years-old, Ardern is one of the world's youngest female heads of government, and only the second to become a mother while still in office."

The Times of India gave prominence to Ardern's resignation with a wire agency story near the top of its website.

India Today led with the news. It highlighted links to the prime minister's interaction with ACT leader David Seymour when she called him an "arrogant prick" as well as a story of Ardern and Finnish PM Sanna Marin deploring sexist reporting.

The Hindustan Times focused on Ardern's comments about kindness in its coverage of her resignation. "Asked how she would like New Zealanders to remember her leadership, she said "as someone who always tried to be kind," it reported.

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