Harawira right to call by-election

Written By: - Date published: 9:03 am, May 2nd, 2011 - 21 comments
Categories: accountability, by-election, hone harawira, mana-party - Tags:

Hone Harawira is to trigger a by-election in Te Tai Tokerau by resigning his seat. This is the right thing politically – more attention for the Mana Party – and in principle. Harawira should test his mandate as leader of a new party – as Winston Peters and Tariana Turia did.

Of course, it’s completely in Labour, National, and the Maori Party’s political interest to act all faint over the $500,000 cost. Labour is right to not waste money standing a candidate. And the Maori Party has its self-interest right in choosing to fight Hone now and challenge his legitimacy as the voice of the Maori Left lest they be swept away by the Mana Party in November.

But let’s be serious here. It’s $500,000 for a legitimate and well-precedented action. If the public purse can’t afford $500,000 let National’s MPs give back this year’s tax cut (also about $500,000 in total) before complaining about the price of democracy.

But Harawira might like to consider why Paddy Gower’s piece on TV3 that sparked all the attention on the cost of the by-election was so hostile. It’s because Harawira twice told TV3 outright there would be no by-election. Journos punish you if you lie to them. Harawira could have left the question open – ‘you better come along to the party launch’ – without answering either way.

(btw. the only way to block the by-election is for the PM to table a document in Parliament pledging that there will be a general election within 6 months and 75% of Parliament agreeing to leave the seat vacant. Early election, Mr Key?)

21 comments on “Harawira right to call by-election”

  1. lprent 1

    Early election, Mr Key?

    It is unlikely.. but.

    • ianmac 1.1

      It would look very strange if Key shortened the Election date just to stop Harawira from having a by-election given that the 6 month rule was within the rules. “Key Blocks Democracy!”

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      Key can make enough hay out of Hone wasting $500,000. I’m sure if the RWC wasn’t an issue, he very well would consider an early election. But as it is, it doesn’t really work.

  2. Now that we are having the by-election, parties and candidates will be assessing what they can actually gain from such an undertaking.

    For all of his shennagins, Hone is a loveable rogue in Te Tai Tokerau, and with the narrative clearly focused on him, there is almost no chance that he will lose. The Mana Party will also be keen to strut it’s stuff out on the campaign trail, a sort of warm-up for November – a chance to build up networks, enlist personnel, etc.’

    For all of the other parliamentary parties, they are on a hiding to nothing. They would all be better off not standing any candidate at all, in the hope that Hone is declared the sole candidate and that the election itself is not actually required.

    However, non-parliamentary parties with an issue to push, for example the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party for one, will likely use this as an opportunity to get exposure, and you can’t rule out other individuals for whom swelled heads dictates a certain personal infallibility.

    So the by-election will happen. I personally predict that there will be 2 or 3 independents, ALCP, Maori Party, Mana Party and maybe another non-parliamentary party candidates.

  3. The Voice of Reason 3

    I asked on an earlier thread what would be a mandate for Hone if there are no candidates from the other major parties standing. If it’s just Hone and a smattering of single issue parties or independants contesting the seat, the turnout is likely to be low. So what constitutes a mandate then? Obviously Hone would ‘win’, but if less than half of the electors bother to vote, is that a success or a failure?

    I’m picking that none of Labour, the Greens, Maori Party or National will stand, because it’s a meaningless result so close to the real election and a waste of their time and money. If one or more do stand, they also risk legitimising Hone if the turnout is close to normal general election levels. On my estimation, the likeliest response from the other parties would be taiho till November and paint Hone as the bloke that blew half a million bucks in the meantime.

    • Pascal's bookie 3.1

      If people don’t stand against a candidate, they don’t get to complain about mandate. Not opposing them is tacit endorsement.

      • The Voice of Reason 3.1.1

        Really? That’ll come as a surprise to Aung San Su Kyi, Ghandi, the liberation movements of South America, the ANC, the Zimbabwean opposition or any party anywhere that has chosen the tactic of non participation in elections at any time for any reason.

        I’m not trying to be precious about this PB, but I really do think that most parties won’t bother and that will all most certainly leave Hone winning an expensive by-election he alone has forced and nobody else wants. If his victory margin is less than half of the eleigible voters, or, even worse, less than his current vote as a Maori Party MP, then he will problems claiming a mandate.

        • Blighty

          those are examples of rejection of a whole corrupt system. It was the apartheid system’s lack of moral mandate that the ANC was seeking to highlight, not the particular parties that participated in it.

        • Pascal's bookie

          I think those analogies are a bit off, to be honest.

          Other parties will do what they do for their own reasons. If they really want to claim that Hone wouldn’t have a mandate though, then they need to stand against him.

          The election process is fair, Hone isn’t a tyrant, and they aren’t engaging in passive resistence by not standing; passive aggression perhaps, but not resistence.

    • ‘Mandates’ are strange things – what counts as a mandate is largely determined by the structure of an electoral process rather than some moral principle (e.g., single party minority government under FPP was considered a legitimate ‘mandate’ by many people at the time.). Similarly, Labour winning the Maori seats with incredibly low turnouts was considered a ‘mandate’ by Labour under FPP.

      So, the mandate issue is a red herring.

      The cost question is also a red (or blue) herring. The idea that a politician should shoot themselves – and the principles they are in politics to fight for – in the foot by not doing something to their advantage that is fully allowed, on the basis that it is a ‘waste of money’ and a ‘stunt’ beggars belief (that would mean putting a restraint order on John Key because, let’s face it, most of his public appearances are principally taxpayer funded electioneering – as is the case for many of our politicians).

      And, in terms of principle, Hone not going for a by-election would be entirely unprincipled. Every speech he made between now and the election; every trip around his electorate; every hand he shook (all funded on the back of his MP’s salary), would be informed by the vision and policies of a party that no-one had voted for. Why isn’t that seen as scandalous, that we would have a representative in Parliament for over 1/6th of this Parliament’s term who, so far as we can say, represents nobody – except, presumably, himself? [Please resist the temptation to provide the obvious response to that comment.] What if he had resigned one month after the 2008 election? Would everyone be happy with him continuing as a member of parliament and as a member of a party no-one voted for? The same amount of money would be saved, after all. It would send out interesting signals to aspiring politicians – find a vehicle, then dump it once elected, set up your own party and reap the publicity for three whole years.

      If it costs $500,000 to run a by-election then that just happens to be the cost of having the form of democracy we have. If we don’t like spending that amount (what amount, btw, would be ‘ok’?) let’s change the electoral laws so that no by-elections get held (perfectly possible to devise, I imagine).

      Finally, the notion that it is ‘wrong’ for him to do this because it is being done for his (and his party’s) political advantage is also a red herring. Many of those critical of it point out that it could be to his political advantage to have foregone the by-election, claiming how ‘fiscally responsible’ he was being. So, it’s political advantage either way.

      Hone (and all politicians) no doubt have to live, at a personal level, with the consequences of their ‘real’ motives. For the rest of us, it is far better to focus on what we want out of the political process, as we can never answer the question “Has X really done Y out of principle?”

      In a sense, Adam Smith’s eulogy to the bakers and brewers of the world is apposite: We don’t look to their (politician’s) generosity but to their self-interest to provide us with good governance. (I have my criticisms of Smith’s view but, in the present competitive political system, it at least stops us endlessly debating the ‘integrity’ of people we don’t know. The latter just invites deception and evasion on the part of those whose morality and ethics we are trying to judge (and that’s never a pretty sight).It would, of course, be far better to be represented by people we know or, better, ‘represent’ ourselves in a much deeper form of democracy.)

    • Lanthanide 3.3

      Let’s have Hone vs Winston Peters with no other contenders.

      • Pascal's bookie 3.3.1

        Wot, no Brash?

        • Lanthanide

          Brash doesn’t think Maori seats should exist, so I’m sure Act won’t be standing in them. But yes, it would be nice if he dipped in too.

          • Rich

            Peter Tashkoff was the candidate last election (yup, he’s tangata whenua despite sounding like Vlad the Impaler’s cuzzie).

  4. Pascal's bookie 4

    And the Maori Party has its self-interest right in choosing to fight Hone now and challenge his legitimacy as the voice of the Maori Left lest they be swept away by the Mana Party in November.

    It’s an interesting situation though.

    If the mP was to sit his one out, they would have the high ground over the ‘truce agreement’. Fighting this one muddies it and leaves Hone with a free reign to run candidates in the general.

    But even if the mP does fight the by-election, Hone could go passively agressive in the general election.

    Take the high ground and not stand against the mP;
    paint the mP as both dishonourable and in the back pocket of National,
    pick up the NZLP’s list vote
    and see if the NZLP can unseat any mP MP’s.

  5. Posted this on Kiwiblog – in reply to the following point made by David Farrar:

    “If it was about a new mandate, then Hone could have called a by-election in February when he was pushed out of the Maori Party.”


    errr……….. small technical point David.

    In February – there was no ‘Mana Party’ for which Hone could seek a mandate.

    You just can’t flick your fingers and immediately form a new party.

    Much easier of course – to do it the BRA$H ‘Dictator Don’ way – by taking over the leadership of an existing party within two hours of joining it?

    Bit of a hard ACT to follow – THAT one!

    If we’re talking about the costs of by-elections – let’s see a bit of consistency here – shall we?

    Please be reminded of how much tax-payer (and ratepayer) money, has been spent on ‘democracy’ following the resignation of ex-National MP Pansy Wong, over arguably corrupt practices involving the ‘misuse of public office for private gain’?

    How much did the Botany by-election cost?
    How much is the Howick by-election costing (as a result of Jami-Lee Ross choosing to stand and win the Botany by-election)?
    How much would another by-election to fill a local board vacancy if Dick Quax wins the Howick Ward by-election?

    Penny Bright

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      Hone could have called a by-election with himself standing as Independent in February, with the explicit statement that he was looking at setting up a new party and that a vote for him now would be a vote for that party.

      • ianmac 5.1.1

        Why should he do that rather than what he has done? Still the cost is the same assuming that the cost is not a red herring? (What is a red herring?)

        • Draco T Bastard

          (What is a red herring?)

          The fact that you’re asking should give you the answer.

  6. ianmac 6

    Just watched Native Affairs on Maori TV. Julian did well in his interview with Hone and Peta Sharples.
    They seem to have a rebroadcast but I don’t how to access the particular item @ http://www.maoritelevision.com/default.aspx?tabid=636&pid=212
    Peta looked unwell and unassertive. Hone seemed relaxed and fluent. His philosophy is pretty clear in spite of spinning from some commentators. They discussed Brash/Act. The part for workers/unions. The gap in the understanding about standing by Maori Party in Tai Tokerau. Clearing up the understanding about Hone Heke Tax.
    A fascinating program.
    Repeats on MT on Sunday evening 5:30pm.

  7. As soon as Hone’s new party is up there is talk about Gandhi and passive resistance and all sorts. NZ politics is getting a lot more interesting…

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