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Archive for 28 November 2011

Post mortem #3: The Maori Party

28 November 2011 26 comments

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This is when politicians really break out in sweat,

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“The Maori Party leadership has met in Auckland today but is yet to decide on a future relationship with National.

Co-leader Tariana Turia said the party would discuss the issue with supporters after meeting with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow.

A reduced Maori Party caucus gathered in Auckland this morning to discuss possible coalition deals.

The party suffered a serious dent in its support last night. It lost Rahui Katene’s Te Tai Tonga seat and saw reduced margins in its remaining three electorates.

Co-leader Pita Sharples was visibly deflated last night and admitted to being disappointed with his own result and that of the whole party.

He said the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years.”

Full Story

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Co-leader Pita Sharples  said “the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years“.

Well now, that’s an understatement if I ever heard one.

It may seem like a Big Ask, but maori appear to want contradictory things for the Maori Party; independent representation with their own  political movement – and a voice in government. But not in coalition  – Maori Party voters seem overtly hostile to coalescing with National.

Anything else? Would you like fries with that?!

I don’t envy Pita Sharples or Tariana Turia one jot. They have conflicting messages from their constituents, and have already been punished with the loss of one of their number, and reduced votes. This is critical support that no small Party can afford. The next step would be a one-man band Party (a-la Peter Dunne, John Banks, and Jim Anderton) followed by political extinction.

On top of expectations from their constituents is a new thorn in their sides; state asset sales. The proposed sales are deeply unpopular with the majority of  the public (or so they tell the pollsters) and no less so with maori.

Sharples has consistently stated that the Maori Party are opposed to asset sales – though with the caveat that if the sales do proceed, they want Iwi Inc. to have first options to buy.

National, of course, would never have a bar of such a proposal.

On top of all this is the  convention of providing Confidence and Supply to the government.

Budgets are presented to the House for voting by all MPs. If the Budget passes, then government is assured of Supply – at least until the next Budget.  In all likelihood, National will make asset sales a central pillar  of their first Budget.

If the Budget is voted down – the government falls. If the Opposition cannot form a new government, then a snap  election is called.

Is essence, if Sharples goes ahead with his promise to oppose asset sales, he is effectively voting down the government’s Budget.

With National’s majority only a slim margin, the Maori Party would be playing a risky game of high-stakes, political poker. Excluding Maori Party support, National will have only a one seat majority in the House once the Speaker’s role is taken into account,

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With Labour a couple of seats short of being able to form a Labour-Greens-NZF-Mana-Maori Party Coalition – a fresh election is inevitable.

At best, the Maori Party could only abstain from voting for Supply for the government. That would mean National relying on Peter Dunne and John Banks to make up the numbers. Just barely.

Not exactly voting for asset sales – and not exactly opposing it, either. And all the while having to satisfy their constituents – or face an even greater voter back-lash in 2014.

At this stage, joining Winston Peters on the cross-benches; voting on legislation issue-by-issue; and hoping that Tariana Turia’s “pet-project” Whanau Ora is not canned – seems their likely option.

This may work. Until the first by-election happens – and last year there were four such by-elections.

To coalesce or not to coalesce – that is the question. Classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t, for a small party in Parliament.

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