New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation this week after being the nation’s leader for six years. She cited “burnout” as the reason. But many believe Ardern chose to exit early because she expected to face a humiliating defeat in this year’s election. Many Kiwis (a nickname for New Zealanders) are fed up with her government’s harsh Covid-19 restrictions.
Ardern was only 37 when she was elected as prime minister. She championed leftists’ favorite causes, such as climate change and so-called gender equality. She rose to international fame following the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack, when a gunman killed 51 people in two mosques. Ardern quickly introduced a strict gun law that banned all “military-style” semi-automatic guns and so-called “assault rifles,” and established a mandatory gun “buyback” program. Arden also wore a hijab to show her respect for the Muslim community. She became a leftist darling and gained fans worldwide. Her images adorned the cover of Time and Vogue. In many ways, she became the AOC of New Zealand.
It turned out the strict gun law Ardern championed failed to curb gun crimes. On the contrary, gun crimes rose to a 10-year high after the law went into effect, according to Radio New Zealand. But the pandemic was really the defining moment for Ardern and revealed that she is not the compassionate democracy defender she wanted us to believe.
In early 2020, when New Zealand had only 100 Covid cases, Ardern took the “go hard and go early” approach and imposed some of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Borders were closed in March 2020, and the nation became a giant prison. Families were separated, and no foreigners or overseas New Zealand citizens were allowed to enter the country. New Zealanders had to shelter in place and could only leave their residences to buy groceries or medical supplies.
Ardern believed her approach was necessary to eliminate Covid-19. Like China’s dictator Xi Jinping, she declared her “zero Covid” policy a victory in October 2020 right before her reelection, when the nation reported fewer than 25 Covid-related deaths and fewer than 2,000 cases since March 2020. Ardern won a second term with a landslide victory. She was regarded as a hero, and many pointed to the so-called New Zealand model as a justification for lockdowns.
Yet when the nation discovered only one Delta variant Covid case in August 2021, Ardern swiftly re-imposed a nationwide lockdown. This time, however, her “zero Covid” policy failed to stop the spread of the highly infectious variant. The new variant spread nationwide, and the number of cases rose.
Ardern imposed a vaccine mandate to reach a nationwide 90 percent vaccination rate. Customers were required to present vaccine certificates before entering any business establishment, and any business wishing to reopen had to have its staff vaccinated. No one was allowed to get a religious exemption. In a nation of 5 million people, fewer than 100 qualified for a medical exemption. A mask mandate went into effect as well. While pushing for her Orwellian policies, Ardern urged Kiwis to “be kind.”
By then, many Kiwis had had enough. Thousands of protesters showed up in front of New Zealand’s parliament building in early November 2021 with signs saying, “Kiwis are not lab rats” and “freedom.” Protesters demanded Ardern’s government lift its vaccine mandate and roll back other Covid restrictions.
In January 2022, a frustrated New Zealand businessman placed an advertisement in the country’s largest news magazine. According to New Zealand-born journalist Dan Wootton, one headline said, “The following countries do not ban their own citizens from returning to their home country,” and it listed a long list of nations including Afghanistan, China, Australia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Under another headline, it said: “The following countries effectively ban their own citizens from returning to their home country,” and it listed just one: New Zealand.
Inspired by the Canadian truckers’ anti-Covid protest, more Kiwis showed up at New Zealand’s parliament building again in February, demanding relief from the government’s compulsory Covid restrictions. Police arrested more than 100 demonstrators.
Ardern waited until September 2022 to remove the government’s masks and vaccine mandates. That same month, she delivered a speech at the United Nations, calling free speech online a weapon often used by those with evil intent and urging world leaders to combat “misinformation.” Her speech was widely condemned. Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald called Ardern “the face of authoritarianism” on Twitter and said what Ardern revealed in her address was “the mindset of tyrants everywhere.”
Two months later, polls in New Zealand showed that public support for Ardern and the Labor Party she led fell to the lowest level since she became leader in 2017, due to her authoritarian Covid policies, which had taken a heavy toll on the nation’s economy and people’s well-being. There was also an incident last December when Ardern called opposition leader David Seymour an “arrogant p—-” during an exchange in a parliament meeting while unaware her mic was still on. The incident shattered her carefully cultivated public image of being kind and compassionate. Arden saw the writing on the wall that she and her party would face a humiliating defeat in the 2023 election as voters will exercise their Covid-19 reckoning at the ballot box. So she chose to exit on her own terms.
Her resignation announcement last week drew mixed reactions in New Zealand and worldwide. Leftists are sad to see her go, while others cheer for Ardern’s departure. Journalist Wootton tweeted, “Jacinda Ardern has resigned as New Zealand’s prime minister knowing full well she was about to be brutally booted from office by Kiwis who woke up to her Covid authoritarianism, Be Kind hypocrisy and an economic catastrophe she inflicted on an amazing country. Good riddance.”
After Ardern’s resignation announcement, some wonder if Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be next to face his compatriots’ post-pandemic reckoning. Like Ardern, Trudeau imposed draconian Covid-19 restrictions in Canada, including mask and vaccine mandates. Trudeau went further by abusing the power of an emergency law to criminalize Canadian truckers who protested against his vaccine mandate, confiscate funds raised by protesters and their supporters, and prohibit future public assemblies. When Trudeau later expressed his support for Chinese protesters who opposed the government’s “zero Covid” policy, many slammed Trudeau as a hypocrite because he too is a tyrant.
Whether Trudeau will resign or be voted out of office remains to be seen. What is clear is that the Orwellian policies that leftist elites such as Ardern and Trudeau championed have been deeply unpopular, and they ruined businesses and lives. These authoritarians want us to forget the suffering we endured in the last three years and move on. But many people demand a Covid reckoning. Ardern is the first Covid tyrant to fall, but she won’t be the last.