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Ardern’s ‘politics of kindness’ was both effective and exhausting

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s charismatic, energetic and empathetic leader, shocked her nation and the world last week by announcing that she would step down from her position as prime minister.

The announcement was perfectly in line with her reputation: honest and forthright. It was another reminder of her commitment to her job and to her understanding that public positions are about service, not power.

The obvious read is that the decision was driven by domestic politics. Ardern became the youngest prime minister in New Zealand in 161 years when she took office in 2017 and won re-election in 2020, largely on the strength of her government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, her government and the ruling New Zealand Labour Party have been battered by economic headwinds and high-profile violent crime.

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