WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Jacinda Ardern made her last public appearance as New Zealand’s prime minister Tuesday, saying what she would miss most was the people, because they had been “the joy of the job.”
Ardern, who has been a global icon of the left, shocked the nation Thursday when he said he would step down as leader after more than five years because he had nothing left in the tank. Labor Party lawmakers voted unanimously on Sunday for Chris Hipkins to take over as prime minister, and he will be sworn in on Wednesday.
Ardern’s final act as leader was to join Hipkins and other lawmakers who attended celebrations at the Rātana meeting place, the home of an indigenous Maori religious movement.
Ardern told reporters that she had been friends with Hipkins for nearly 20 years and spent two hours with him on the way to the meeting place. She said the only real advice she could offer was, “You do.”
“This is for him now. It is up to him to create his own space for him to be his own kind of leader,” Ardern said. “Actually, there isn’t any advice that he can really impart. I can share information, I can share experiences, but this is now for him.”
Ardern also addressed the wide-ranging discussion that has been going on since her announcement about the virulent and misogynistic attacks against her on social media, something she said did not contribute to her decision to resign.
“While there have been some comments after my departure, I would hate for anyone to see my departure as a negative comment on New Zealand,” Ardern said. “I have experienced so much love, compassion, empathy and kindness when I have been in this job. That has been my predominant experience.”
Hipkins told reporters that the leadership transition was “bittersweet.”
“Obviously, I’m really honored to take on the role, but as is well known, Jacinda is a very good friend of mine,” he said.
At the meeting place, Ardern was greeted with hugs and chants. He told attendees that he would leave the job with a greater love and affection for New Zealand and its people than when he started.
“I didn’t think that was possible,” he said.
He said that his colleagues were exceptional people.
“I never did this job alone,” Ardern said. “I did it together with these wonderful servers from New Zealand. And I leave knowing that you are in the best hands.”
Ardern plans to remain a member of Parliament until April to avoid a special election being held before the country’s general election in October. She said that she was ready for the new and relatively dark role of hers.
“I am ready to be many things,” Ardern told reporters. “I am ready to be a secondary parliamentarian. I am ready to be a sister and a mom.”