Jacinda Ardern’s shocking resignation, or the art of politicking differently

He was gone when he arrived: without anyone expecting him. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday 19 January that she would step down as head of government on 7 February, just nine months before the next general election. “I gave everything to become prime minister, but it also cost meshe said, close to tears, during a press conference. I just don’t have enough energy for another four years.”. The announcement sent shockwaves among the archipelago’s 5 million inhabitants.

Jacinda Ardern was, in 2017, just 37 years old, the country’s youngest prime minister since 1856. Her arrival as head of government has created a shock: pushing out a Labor candidate less than two months before elections and without ever having assumed ministerial functions, elected officials have let his political party won the victory while trailing 20 points in opinion polls a few weeks earlier. Jacinda Ardern was a woman, young, pregnant while she was in office… Suffice it to say UFO politics for some of her opponents, who called her a “star dust” or asking him to prove that he is something other than “lipstick on a pig”according to an English expression (“lipstick on a pig”).

Once in power, Jacinda Ardern continued to impose a singular style and play by political codes. In 2018, he became the second head of government to give birth during his tenure (after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto) and the first to take six weeks of maternity leave before his partner takes on fatherhood at home. “I would love it if a prime minister’s pregnancy were not reported because it would be considered normal”said the Prime Minister of New Zealand in an interview with World, a few weeks before she gave birth. That same year, she attended the annual United Nations General Assembly with her three-month-old daughter, Neve, becoming the first female leader to bring her baby into the bedroom.

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“Since she assumed this position, Jacinda Ardern has worked to normalize or even humanize political leaders and leaders through the codes and standards she highlights, where others want to represent superiority, something of a sacred order or divinity”, explains Mérabha Benchikh, doctor of sociology and specialist in gender issues in politics. A ” road to realize an alternative, another political path, different exercise of power from Margaret Thatcher, for example, who has fused very masculine, even manly codes”he continued.

From the Christchurch attacks to Covid-19

Jacinda Ardern defended her speech “characterized by feminine rhetoric, she is empathetic, caring”, says Maud Navarre, a sociologist who also specializes in gender and women in politics. The Prime Minister of New Zealand was particularly pictured during the attacks on two mosques in Chirstchurch in 2019, which left 51 people dead and 49 seriously injured. Or during the Covid-19 pandemic. He then managed to have a live exchange on Facebook, from his couch, to answer questions from his fellow citizens. A trademark that has long enjoyed support from New Zealand public opinion. In the 2020 legislative elections, Jacinda Ardern was re-elected with Labor, earning her highest score since 1946 with over 50% of the vote and an absolute majority of seats.

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To achieve this result, the Prime Minister of New Zealand could rely on solid experience: a graduate in communications, he perfectly copes with social network codes. What’s more, when she was in power, Jacinda Ardern was by no means new and knew exactly how the world of politics worked. Joining the Labor Party at the age of 17, he went on to become vice president of the Youth Party in the early 2000s before continuing his career overseas, where he worked for Tony Blair’s cabinet. Back in New Zealand, he was a member of the House of Representatives from 2008.

Prime Minister “can use his approach to power as a way of distinguishing himself in politics”report M.I Navarre. And this, to the end, as illustrated by his shocking resignation which is justified first of all by his personal exhaustion and the need to find his family. “This decision is strategically relevant, his popularity ratings have declined in recent months, and may give his party a chance to win the election with someone else.”, he added. Relevant yet unprecedented in recent history, it is rare for the art of knowing how to survive politics.

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