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DC Edit | How to quit politics


Published on: January 19, 2023 | Updated on: January 19, 2023

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern has called it quits. She crossed quite a few memorable milestones in her still young political career after becoming, in Oct. 2017, the youngest female head of government. She then led the Labour Party in 2020 to a resounding victory in a first ever absolute majority in her country’s new proportional voting system. She was only the second Prime Minister, after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 1990, to give birth to a child while holding office, in 2018.

It may come as a shock that such a powerful woman leader, who was seen as a torchbearer for progressive politics globally after her stirring speech at the UN with her girl Neve, who was wearing a security badge naming her "First Child" in tow, should be leaving office in a few weeks because she has nothing "left in the tank". Praise has come from some quarters for the self-professed social democrat for recognising the signs that she is at the end of her tether and so is giving up her seat at the high table.

Jacinda, a byword for achievements by a woman even in an era of enhanced equal opportunities, not only went through a pregnancy while working as PM to the very day of her admission in hospital to have her baby, but also earned a name for leading New Zealand through the pandemic, enabling it to be among very few countries to come through without great loss of lives to Covid-19. Her leadership after the attack on the Churchgate mosque and the natural disaster in the Whakaari Island eruption were exemplary.

"We are only human," she said, perhaps getting to the nub of the issue at a time when political leaders seem to behave as if they have just stepped out of a Marvel comic, dressed in superhero costumes. Known for her empathy as well as clarity on most issues and keeping her feet on the ground even when New Zealand was in the grip of "Jacindamania", she leaves the top job when people are asking "why?". That, despite her plunging popularity rating currently, which, however, is only a professional hazard as any politician would point out.