New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 42, announced her resignation on Thursday, noting that after over five years in office, she could no longer hack it.
While Ardern, former participant in the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders program, was clear about her reasons for quitting, a number of Kiwi politicians and activists have jumped to another conclusion: that the prime minister was forced out by "excessive polarisation" and "vilification," in part by those critical of her excessive polarization of New Zealand during the pandemic and her government's vilification of those wary about receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
"I am human. Politicians are human. We give all we can for as long as we can, and then it's time. And for me, it's time," Ardern said tearfully on Thursday.
Ardern took power on Oct. 26, 2017, at the age of 37. Her resignation takes effect Feb. 7.
"I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging," she said. "You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges."
The prime minister stressed that her party's underperformance in the polls ahead of the upcoming election was not the reason for her calling it quits and clarified that "the adversity you face in politics ... was not the basis of my decision."
The actual reason, according to the prime minister, was simple: "I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do [this job] justice."
Ardern underscored: "I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case, I probably would have departed two months into the job."
The Guardian reported that speculation is mounting that "abuse and threats" drove Ardern to throw in the towel, even though she made clear that was not the case.
"It is a sad day for politics where an outstanding leader has been driven from office for constant personalisation and vilification," said Māori party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. "Her [family] have withstood the ugliest attacks over the last two years with what we believe to be the most demeaning form of politics we have ever seen."
New Zealand's first elected woman prime minister, Helen Clark, said, "The pressures on prime ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait, and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country."
"Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling," Clark added.
Kate Hannah, director of the so-called Disinformation Project, told the Guardian, "The scope of what we’ve observed over the last three years is such that there’s no way it could not have been a contributing factor – for any person," adding, "What we see now is absolutely normative, extremely vulgar and violent slurs … incredibly violent use of imagery around death threats."
Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University in New Zealand, told the New York Times that Ardern "became the personification of a particular response to the pandemic, which people in the far-flung margins of the internet and the not-so-far-flung margins used against her."
Ardern's two-tier society
The suggestions that Ardern was subjected to unprecedented abuse, polarization, and vulgarity appear to be provided in a vacuum of context.
TheBlaze previously reported that in 2021, a reporter said to Ardern, "You've basically said, and you probably don't see it like this, but two different classes of people if you're vaccinated or unvaccinated. If you're vaccinated you have all these rights."
Ardern replied gleefully, "That is what is, yep, yep," thereby confirming, to borrow a turn of phrase from Clark, that the state intentionally mandated "excessive polarisation."
Accordingly, citizens of the purportedly free nation were not allowed to exercise their mobility rights until 90% of the country was fully vaccinated.
Ardern's government implemented a "traffic-light" pandemic regime whereby those who were vaccinated were allowed to travel around and use services freely, whereas those who refused the mRNA vaccines had their freedoms of assembly and mobility all but eliminated.
The unvaccinated were not permitted to eat in restaurants, work out in gyms, or drink in bars.
The prime minister, whom Ngarewa-Packer suggested was forced out by "the most demeaning form of politics," told citizens, "If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching Covid-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach."
Ardern went on to erroneously suggest that the virus was majoritively spread by and between unvaccinated persons.
In August 2021, Ardern forced her entire country into lockdown after a 58-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19. Schools were closed. All gatherings were canceled. Citizens were confined to quarters. Residents were allegedly prohibited from removing their face masks to drink outdoors.
In February 2022, Ardern said that anti-mandate protests in Wellington, which she characterized as intimidating, "cannot be tolerated," reported the Associated Press
Extra to vilifying protesters and citizens struggling to exercise their bodily autonomy, Ardern compared free speech online with "weapons of war" during a September speech at the United Nations.
The New York Post reported that Ardern said that "mis- and disinformation online" constitute challenges "that we must as leaders address," adding, "We have the means; we just need the collective will."
Ardern adopted militant language, intimating that dissenting views on climate change and "dangerous rhetoric" should be crushed.
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald was taken aback by Ardern's comments, writing, "This is the face of authoritarianism – even though it looks different than you were taught to expect. And it’s the mindset of tyrants everywhere."
"This is someone so inebriated by her sense of righteousness and superiority that she views dissent as an evil too dangerous to allow," said Greenwald.
During the pandemic, Ardern intimated that government disseminated information was the only true information, saying, "You can trust us as the source of that information. You can also trust the director general of health and the Ministry of Health. For that information, do feel free to visit at any time to clarify any rumor you may hear: covid19.govt.nz. Otherwise, dismiss anything else. We will continue to be your single source of truth."
Ardern's curbs on Kiwis' freedoms were not all speech- or pandemic-related, however. In 2021, she announced a plan to ban smoking and put nearly all of the country's tobacconists out of business. A year later, the country implemented the world's first annually rising legal smoking age, with the intent of coercively phasing out the addictive pastime.
As she moves on from helming New Zealand's apparent "single source of truth," Jacinda said she wants to be remembered "as someone who always tried to be kind."
Ardern raised some eyebrows in December after calling the opposition leader David Seymour an "arrogant p****" in Parliament.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to note that Helen Clark was the first elected female prime minister of New Zealand. The first woman prime minister was Jenny Shipley.
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