The prime ministers of Canada and Australia have paid tribute to their New Zealand counterpart, who has shocked the world by announcing she would be resigning as her country’s leader.
Justin Trudeau, who said the 42-year-old prime minister’s leadership had made an “immeasurable” difference on the world stage, and Anthony Albanese were among world leaders and public figures expressing admiration for Ardern.
“Thank you for your partnership and your friendship – and for your empathic, compassionate, strong, and steady leadership over these past several years,” the Canadian premier tweeted.
Albanese said Ardern had been a “fierce advocate for New Zealand” and had “shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength … She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities.”
The former Australian premier Kevin Rudd also praised Ardern’s record, saying she “rewrote the rulebook for how world leaders are supposed to look and act” and had provided “a masterclass in international public diplomacy”.
Roberta Metsola, the president of the European parliament, said Ardern had “led New Zealand with grace and dignity under extraordinary pressure in extraordinary times”, adding that she was “a friend to Europe who has been a trailblazing example – to young women in particular – showing how politics can be a force for positive change”.
The US ambassador to New Zealand, Tom Udall, said Ardern was an “incredible world leader” and he was “very proud of what we accomplished together”.
Ardern began her political career as a researcher in the office of the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.
On Thursday, Clark said she was deeply saddened by the news of her resignation. “Jacinda has done an amazing job leading NZ & always brought humanity, empathy, & intelligence to the job. Much to be said, but for now – just thank you.”
Maria Shriver, the American journalist and former first lady of California, described Ardern as “an inspiring leader”, saying she had to “hand it to her for her honesty though. This makes me sad and it shows what a drain leading can be.”
The New Zealand actor Sam Neill described Ardern as a “great leader” in a Twitter post. “I am not surprised nor do I blame her,” he said. “Her treatment, the pile-on, in the last few months has been disgraceful and embarrassing. All the bullies, the misogynists, the aggrieved. She deserved so much better.”
Ardern’s government has been sliding steadily in the polls over the past year amid soaring inflation, a looming recession and a resurgent conservative opposition.
The opposition National leader, Christopher Luxon, said Ardern had “made a significant contribution to New Zealand, in what is a difficult and demanding job” and called her a “strong ambassador for New Zealand on the world stage”.
The leader of New Zealand’s libertarian-right Act party, said Ardern was a “well-meaning person” whose “idealism collided hard with reality”.
Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, said: “We’re extremely proud of what Jacinda has done for New Zealand and what as a party we’ve been able to achieve, and also a sense that we want to carry on as well.”
Ardern became the world’s youngest female head of government when she was elected prime minister in 2017 at 37. She was also the second prime minister in the world to give birth while in office, becoming a global icon for women in leadership.
The Indian congressman Jairam Ramesh said Indian politics needed more leaders like Ardern, who “go when people ask why [are they] going, instead of why aren’t they”.
Ardern – who steered the country through natural disasters, the Covid pandemic and its worst terrorist attack – said on Thursday she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job. “It’s time … I’d be doing a disservice to New Zealand if I continued,” she told her party’s annual caucus meeting.
Farid Ahmed, a survivor of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack that killed 51 people – including his wife – and injured 40, said Ardern’s “universal call for human unity with compassion made me cry with joy then, and it makes me cry now”.
The prime minister’s “kindness, wisdom and efforts for a peaceful world have been a remarkable example for world leaders,” Ahmed said. “I understand that she needs rest, and I wish her all the best in her life.”
Ardern’s term as prime minister will conclude no later than 7 February but she will continue as an MP until the election this year.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.