Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she would step down after five years as New Zealand’s prime minister, having led the country through calm and calamity while cementing her reputation as a global progressive icon. Ms. Ardern initially shot to international fame with her youthful charisma, feminist progressive values and a compassionate leadership style she brought to the crises that defined her time in office, like the 2019 terror attack in Christchurch and the coronavirus pandemic.
She was hailed as a counterbalance to the wave of right-wing populism sweeping the United States and other countries, with the news media calling her the “anti-Trump” and “Saint Jacinda.” But with her leadership emphasizing personality over policy, her popularity has waned at home in recent months, as the progressive transformation she promised on issues like housing prices, child poverty and carbon emissions failed to materialize.
Here are some highs and lows of her tenure:
Became the leader of New Zealand’s center-left Labour Party in August 2017, less than two months before a national election and amid dismal polling numbers for the party. Her youth, charisma and frank political style set off a wave of “Jacindamania,” elevating the Labour Party’s popularity and enabling it to form a governing coalition with New Zealand First, a minor party. When she became prime minister in October of that year, she was 37 — the world’s youngest female head of government.
Announced her pregnancy in January 2018, just months after her stunning electoral upset, prompting a national conversation about working mothers and an international reckoning about the rarity of pregnant women in leadership roles. (The last leader to deliver a baby while in office before Ms. Ardern was Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, in 1990.) Ms. Ardern gave birth to a daughter, Neve, in June 2018 and took six weeks of parental leave, leaving deputy prime minister Winston Peters in charge. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, left his job as a TV show host to become a stay-at-home parent.