Jacinda Ardern has announced she will quit as New Zealand prime minister ahead of this year’s election, saying she no longer has “enough in the tank” to lead.
Ms Ardern choked up as she detailed how six “challenging” years in the job had taken a toll.
Labour Party MPs will vote to find her replacement on Sunday.
The shock announcement comes as polling indicates the party faces a difficult path to re-election on 14 October.
Ms Ardern, 42, said she had taken time to consider her future over the summer break, hoping to find the heart and energy to go on in the role.
“But unfortunately I haven’t, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue,” she told reporters on Thursday.
Ms Ardern will step down by 7 February. If no would-be successor garners the support of two-thirds of the party room, the vote will go to Labour’s lay membership.
Ms Ardern became the youngest female head of government in the world when she was elected prime minister in 2017, aged 37.
And a year later she became the second elected world leader to ever give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
She steered New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing recession, the Christchurch mosque shootings, and the White Island volcanic eruption.
Ms Ardern said the past five-and-a-half years had been the “most fulfilling” of her life, but leading the country during “crisis” had been difficult.
“These events… have been taxing because of the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them. There’s never really been a moment where it’s ever felt like we were just governing.”
National Party leader Chris Luxon was among those who thanked Ms Ardern “for her service to New Zealand”.
“She has given her all to this incredibly demanding job,” the opposition leader wrote on Twitter.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Ms Ardern as a leader of intellect, strength and empathy.
“Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me,” he wrote.
Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said she had made an “immeasurable” difference to the world.
But while Ms Ardern was often seen as a political star globally, opinion polls suggest she was increasingly unpopular at home.
She led the Labour Party to a landslide election victory in 2020, capitalising on her government’s strong early response to the pandemic.