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New Zealand’s Ardern to leave office, sets October election


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called New Zealand’s next general elections for Oct. 14.

She said Thursday in Napier she will remain a lawmaker until then. Ardern will step down as prime minister by Feb. 7.

She said she had given her “absolute all” during nearly six years in office but did not have the reserve to serve another term.

Ardern had faced a tough election campaign this year. Her liberal Labor Party won reelection two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday she is stepping down as New Zealand’s leader and will not contest this year’s general elections.

Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters in Napier that Feb. 7 will be her last day in office.

“I am entering now my sixth year in office, and for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,” she said.

Ardern described her job as among the most privileged but challenging jobs and said doing it required having a reserve to face the unexpected. She said she no longer had that reserve to face another term in office.

She said her time in office has been fulfilling but challenging. “But I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have left two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role, comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not. I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she said.

Ardern had faced a tough election campaign this year. Her liberal Labor Party won reelection two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.

She was praised 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 that 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.

Ardern in December announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry would look into whether the government made the right decisions in battling COVID-19 and how it can better prepare for future pandemics. Its report is due next year.



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