New Zealand’s Ardern has many possibilities for a second act

Jan 19, 2023, 5:58 AM | Updated: 8:54 pm
FILE - New Zealand's Kieran Read, left, receives the trophy from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda...

FILE - New Zealand's Kieran Read, left, receives the trophy from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after defeating Australia in the Bledisloe Cup rugby test match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Aug. 25, 2018. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/David Rowland, File)

(AP Photo/David Rowland, File)

              FILE - New Zealand's Kieran Read, left, receives the trophy from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after defeating Australia in the Bledisloe Cup rugby test match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Aug. 25, 2018. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/David Rowland, File)
            
              FILE - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks around Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island in Antarctica, Oct. 27, 2022. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (Mike Scott/NZ Herald/Pool Photo via AP, File)
            
              FILE - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures as she gives her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Oct. 17, 2020. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/Mark Baker., File)
            
              FILE - New Zealand's Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern speaks during the One Planet Summit in New York, Sept. 26, 2018. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
            
              FILE - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reacts after receiving an honorary degree before speaking at Harvard's 371st Commencement, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Cambridge, Mass. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)
            
              FILE - Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaks during the "Safeguarding the planet" session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2019. When Ardern steps down as prime minster next month, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
            
              New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, with her fiancee Clark Gayford leave a press conference after announcing her resignation in Napier, New Zealand, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters that Feb. 7 will be her last day in office. (Mark MItchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)
            
              New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, hugs her fiancee Clark Gayford after announcing her resignation at a press conference in Napier, New Zealand, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters that Feb. 7 will be her last day in office. (Mark MItchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)
            
              FILE - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a joint press conference with Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Sydney, Australia, on July 8, 2022. Ardern, who was praised around the world for her handling of the nation’s worst mass shooting and the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, she was leaving office. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — When Jacinda Ardern announced this week she was stepping down as New Zealand’s prime minister, speculation began almost immediately about what she might do for a second act.

When she leaves, she will have accumulated 15 years experience as a lawmaker and five-and-a-half years as leader. She will also be just 42 years old. Observers say she has all sorts of career possibilities open to her.

Ardern said she was leaving the job because she no longer has “enough in the tank to do it justice” and has no immediate plans for her own future other than to spend more time with her fiancé and 4-year-old daughter.

“I’ll have to admit I slept well for the first time in a long time last night,” Ardern told reporters Friday, adding that she felt both sadness and relief.

Stephen Hoadley, an assistant professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, said he couldn’t imagine Ardern would remain at home over the long term, given her energy and skills.

“She has the potential, she has the ability, she has the profile, she has the acceptability to do a whole lot of things,” Hoadley said. “Give her a few weeks to rest up, and to refill the tank, to use her phrase. But I would imagine by the end of this year, she’ll be off and running on a whole new career line.”

Hoadley pointed to the career path of Helen Clark, another former New Zealand prime minister who went on to become a top administrator at the U.N., leading the development program.

“Jacinda could be tapped by any number of United Nations, or charitable, or philanthropical, or other kinds of organizations,” Hoadley said.

“There are many, many possibilities, and her profile is so high that I think she would have her pick.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who first met Ardern in about 2007 and has remained friends, said he was in shock but also not wholly surprised when Ardern told him of her plans to resign.

“It’s been a really intense five years,” Shaw said.

On top of a busy legislative program, Shaw said, Ardern had needed to steer the country through a series of crises, including a mass-shooting at two Christchurch mosques that left 51 people dead, a volcanic eruption that killed 22, and the coronavirus pandemic.

On top of that, Ardern also bore the brunt of a growing number of threats, Shaw said, and a toxic, misogynistic online culture that had grown worse in recent years.

“What I hope is that she can get some time at the beach with her family, uninterrupted, for a while,” Shaw said.

He said he believes Ardern when she says she doesn’t yet have firm plans for the future.

“I think she could do pretty much whatever she wants from this point,” Shaw said.

“Jacinda is one of the most selfless, determined, publicly-minded people I have ever met,” Shaw added. “So I would imagine that whatever it is, it will be in the public interest.”

___

Read more of AP’s Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

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New Zealand’s Ardern has many possibilities for a second act