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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Matthew Brockett

Abuse faced by Janinda Ardern ‘utterly abhorrent’, says incoming leader of New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, with Chris Hipkins at parliament in Wellington for the vote to formally confirm him as her replacement. Photo: Mark Mitchell/AP

New Zealand’s incoming prime minister, Chris Hipkins, has urged men to call out misogyny and abuse of women when they see it, saying the way his predecessor Jacinda Ardern was treated by some was “utterly abhorrent”.

“I think we often leave it to women to say ‘this isn’t okay’, and ‘I don’t feel okay about that’, and many women don’t feel comfortable talking in that way,” Mr Hipkins told a news conference yesterday in Wellington. “So I think we as men have a responsibility to call it out when we see it and to say that it’s not okay.”

Ms Ardern has said the abuse she endured as prime minister didn’t play a role in her surprise resignation last week, citing instead a lack of energy after five gruelling years leading the country through crisis after crisis. However, former prime minister Helen Clark said Ms Ardern had faced an unprecedented level of hatred and vitriol.

While Ms Ardern became a torch-bearer for liberal values on the global stage during her five years as prime minister, giving birth in office and promoting empathetic leadership, she was also a target for misogyny and personal attacks as some objected to her strict social restrictions to battle Covid-19.

Anti-government protesters often brandished placards calling her things such as “Jabcinda” and “a pretty communist”, and she received increasing numbers of threats from the public.

The two walked side-by-side through the halls of parliament before the caucus vote, which was largely a formality

After she announced her resignation, Fox News host Tucker Carlson called Ms Ardern “the lady with the big teeth” and a Chinese puppet who tormented her citizens.

Mr Hipkins paid tribute to Ms Ardern yesterday, saying she was one of New Zealand’s great prime ministers who gave a voice to those often overlooked in challenging times.

“Jacinda’s leadership has been an inspiration to women and girls everywhere,” he said. “But it’s also been a reminder that we’ve got a way to go when it comes to ensuring that women in leadership receive the same respect as their male counterparts.

“The way Jacinda has been treated, particularly by some segments of our society – and they are a small minority – has been utterly abhorrent.”

Mr Hipkins was confirmed as the next prime minister yesterday after he was unanimously voted in by his party as Ms Ardern’s successor, just a few days after her decision to resign.

The 64 MPs of the ruling Labour Party voted in favour of the 44-year-old Mr Hipkins, who was the only nominee to replace Ms Ardern. The two walked side-by-side through the halls of parliament before the caucus vote, which was largely a formality.

Mr Hipkins will be officially sworn into his new role on Wednesday.

On entering the parliament in Wellington for the vote, the pair embraced and were met with applause.

The outgoing prime minister’s last engagements as the leader of the country will be tomorrow.

Mr Hipkins is the country’s education minister and a long- time friend as well as a political ally of Ms Ardern.

Ms Ardern and her party’s popularity have taken a hit in the past year as Kiwis suffered high inflation rates and the rising cost of living. New Zealand is set to go to fresh general elections this October.

Addressing these issues, Mr Hipkins promised “strong clarity, sense of purpose and priority to helping New Zealanders through these tough economic times”.

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