Maori Party to pave way for Harawira's return to Parliament
By Richard Harman (author)
The Maori Party – Mana Party pact announced yesterday looks set to pave the way for Hone Harawira to return to Parliament.
At the same time the deal may threaten two of Labour’s brightest Maori stars --- Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare.
The two parties have not detailed how their relationship will work.
Their executives met in Whangarei "to discuss their future relationship" said Maori Party President Tukuroirangi Morgan.
“This is a significant occasion where we have been able to put aside our differences and focus on what is best for our people and to put the interests of our people first and foremost.," he said.
“Today we have reached an agreement as part of the first step in developing our relationship that we will continue to work on.”
Talking to POLITIK, Morgan said the aim of the two parties was to wrest all of the Maori seats off Labour.
That would involve each standing aside for the other in some seats.
He named Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru as two seats he believed the deal would bring to the Maori party while att he same time it is probable the Maori Party would not oppose Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau.
If that had been he case at the last election, and everybody who voted for the Maori Party instead votes for Harawira, he would have beaten Labour front bencher, Kelvin Davis, with an 1836 majority.
Similarly, if Man stood aside in Tamaki Makaurau where Peeni Henare is the MP and Te Tai Hauauru, then the Maori Party would have won both seats.
But Morgan says the detail of which party will stand for which seat is still being worked out.
"I'm confident that we will take all of the seats that we will campaign in," he said.
"It (the eventual agreement) could well mean that Hone will end up back in Parliament."
Meanwhile, the Maori Party is to prioritise selections in Te Tai Tonga and Tamaki Makaurau which Morgan described as a "pivotal' seat.
"I think one of the things the nation will get is how serious the party is when they the quality and calibre of candidates we will be putting up against the present Labour MPs," he said.
In the meantime the two parties have formed a working group to define the relationship.
"If you go back to the last election we lost Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru because the Mana Party cut into our votes there big time," said Morgan.
He has just completed a nationwide tour of his party's branches and says they have got some impressive candidates waiting in the wings to stand at the election.
Already they have selected New Zealand Rugby League great and local Councillor Howie Tamati for Te Tai Hauauru.
But what’s clear already is that the Maori Party see it as a way of increasing their seats in Parliament.
However what's unique about the Maori- Mana relationship is that it will stop at the doors of Parliament.
Morgan wants the party to hold the balance of power after the election and to ensure that it is part of the next Government.
"The mantra and our dictum going forward is that we want to be the enduring voice at the Government table irrespective whether its blue or red --- it doesn't matter.
"The issue for us is to ensure that we have a permanent voice at the governing table of this country.
“We can’t change the face of our people and the social and economic fortunes of our people if we are off the table.”
That raises the question of where Hone Harawira would fit into any coalition the Maori Party might become part of.
"Hone has been a perpetual party of protest; we are a party of progress. We are getting on," said Morgan.
In an interview with POLITIK IN September, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he believed that Morgan's strategy might work and that the Maori party could win another two seats.
“If they win a couple more seats and we need them, they are going to be a handful,” English said.
“They will be ambitious.”
But that might be a price National was willing to pay if it limited the demands from New Zealand First.
It would seem that New Zealand First already see the Maori Party as potentially a major restraint on any leverage they might be able to exercise over the next Government.
In recent weeks they have stepped up their opposition to what they call "race-based" legislative moves voting against a relatively innocuous Bill to allow winemakers to patent regional names for their wine.
NZ First opposed it because it gave local iwi a right of approval if the name being patented was a Maori place name.
What that suggests, and what the new deal with Mana suggests, is that the Maori Party is likely to be a key factor in the formation of the next Government.