New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern has abruptly announced her resignation ahead of this year's election, saying she is exhausted and no longer able to give the job 100 percent.
Ardern, a close ally of President Biden who enforced some of the world's most totalitarian COVID restrictions, steps down with her approval ratings at their lowest ever.
The move comes with her leftist Labor Party sinking in the polls ahead of October's elections, although Ardern denied politics was behind her decision. She became emotional as she announced the shocking news, saying her five years in power had taken a toll on her.
"I am human; politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she added.
At the time of her election in 2017, Ardern was the youngest female head of state in the world at age 37. The outspoken liberal was glamorized early and often in the global media for her aggressive policies, which captured the revolutionary slogan, "never let a crisis go to waste."
In 2019, she gained widespread attention for swiftly moving to confiscate semi-automatic guns following the Christchurch massacre. Her decisive response was applauded by Democrats in the U.S., where widespread gun ownership and the Bill of Rights pose obstacles to such sweeping measures.
But Ardern will likely be remembered most for her extreme, "zero COVID" policy, which turned the island nation into a prison. At one point, Ardern placed the entire country on lockdown over a single COVID case.
“The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard,” Ardern said at the time.
The China-style measures, among the most draconian in the Western world, won her heaps of praise in the liberal press but faced pushback at home, where some viewed her as a tyrant.
At the height of the pandemic, she notoriously described the government as the "single source of truth," and she once candidly admitted that her harsh vaccination policy was meant to divide society into distinct social classes.
While meeting with Ardern in May, Biden described her leadership style as a model, saying, "We need your guidance."
But Ardern leaves power humbled by backlash over her COVID policy, crime, and the rising cost of living. As she prepares to leave before February 7, she said she wants to be remembered positively for her "kind, but strong" leadership.
"I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused," she said.
"And that you can be your own kind of leader - one who knows when it's time to go," she said.