After her announcement, speculation about what she might do next began almost immediately. When she leaves her post, she will have 15 years of experience as a legislator and five and a half years as an executive.
She is also only 42 years old. Observers say she has all sorts of career options open to her.
Ms Ardern said she quit the job because she no longer had “enough in the tank to handle it” and had no immediate plans for her own future other than spending more time with her fiancé and four-year-old daughter.
“I have to admit that last night I slept well for the first time in a long time,” Ardern told reporters on Friday, adding that she felt both sadness and relief.
Stephen Hoadley, assistant professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, said he couldn’t imagine Ardern staying at home long-term given her energy and skills.
“She has the potential, she has the ability, she has the profile, she has the acceptance to do a whole lot of things,” Hoadley said. “Give her a couple of weeks to rest and refuel her sentence. But I would imagine that by the end of this year she’ll be kicking off and embarking on a whole new career path.
Hoadley pointed to the career path of Helen Clark, another former New Zealand PM who went on to become a top administrator at the UN and oversaw the development programme.
“Jacinda could be tapped by any number of United Nations agencies or charitable or philanthropic or other types of organizations,” Hoadley said.
“There are many, many options, and her profile is such that I think she would have her choice.”
Climate Secretary James Shaw, who first met Ardern around 2007 and has remained friends with him, said he was shocked but not entirely surprised when Ardern told him about her plans to step down.
“It’s been a really intense five years,” Shaw said.
In addition to a busy legislative program, Shaw said, Ardern has had to guide the country through a series of crises, including a mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques that killed 51, a volcanic eruption that killed 22, and the coronavirus outbreak. Pandemic .
In addition, Ardern also bears the brunt of a growing body of threats, Shaw said, and a toxic, misogynist online culture that has worsened in recent years.
“What I’m hoping is that she can get uninterrupted beach time with her family for a while,” Shaw said.
He said he believes Ardern when she says she doesn’t have any firm plans for the future yet.
“I think she could pretty much do whatever she wants from that point,” Shaw said.
“Jacinda is one of the most selfless, determined and outspoken people I’ve ever met,” added Shaw.
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