If I were the Maori Party’s campaign strategist

Written By: - Date published: 12:02 pm, April 17th, 2008 - 27 comments
Categories: election 2008, maori party - Tags: ,

The Maori Party is in an enviable position going into this year’s election. It is likely Kingmaker, and the more seats it gets the more likely it will occupy that ground. Polls project the Maori Party to possibly win all seven Maori roll seats while obtaining around 2% of the party vote. That will create a large overhang in Parliament, meaning up there will be up to 125 seats and 63 seats will be needed for a majority. 63 seats will likely be too big a hurdle for either a Labour-Greens-Progressive bloc or a National-ACT-United bloc, the Maori Party will needed by either to govern.

That makes for a relatively straightforward strategy for the Maori Party: put all your effort into winning the Maori seats and don’t worry about the party vote. Now, not competing for the Maori Party vote effectively means ceding those votes to Labour, which only makes sense if the Maori Party prefers a Labour-led government. And that should be the Maori Party’s preferred choice. Labour’s policy objectives are more in line with the Maori Party’s and Labour is likely to be able to give the Maori Party a better deal.

Unlike other parties, the Maori Party does not need to run too hard on substantive policy. Rather it stands on the individual mana of its MPs and the Party’s track record of consultation with its supporters over issues and consistently putting Maori interests first. Its core policy should remain overturning the Foreshore and Seabed Act but it is reputation and trust that matters most for the Maori party’s target voters. The strategy will be reliant on the MPs and candidates getting out there and talking to Maori voters, making them believe that their interests are best served by an independent Maori voice in Parliament.

When it comes to inter-party relations, the Maori Party ought to let voters know which party they favour leading a government, and the choice should be Labour. Not only will Labour be able to offer a better deal for Maori interests, it is the party that nearly all Maori supported before the advent of the Maori Party and the party from which they will need to take votes to win the rest of the Maori seats. Furthermore, most Maori Party supporters are likely to vote for the Maori Party candidate and give their party vote to Labour. If Maori voters are reassured that voting for the Maori Party isn’t a vote against a Labour-led government, they are likely to be more comfortable with backing their Maori Party candidate.

27 comments on “If I were the Maori Party’s campaign strategist”

  1. deemac 1

    their MPs’ mana took a bit of a knock with Tariana’s ludicrous and offensive comparison of gang patches to yellow stars. You can take off a gang patch, you can’t stop being Jewish.
    In any other country she would have been howled down but in NZ this sort of idiotic comment is tolerated it seems.

  2. Phil 2

    It’s a fascinating quirk of MMP that the best outcome for the Maori party right now would be to get no party votes at all, while picking up all the electorate seats.
    That would give parliament a 7 seat overhang… ouch

    I tend to look at the Maroi partys popularity first and foremost as a rejection of Labours Maori MP’s service (or lack of it?) to Maoridom.

    It’s quite interesting that the rejection has been directed at individuals rather than the Labour party as a whole – I’m thinking here in comparison to the West Coast’s re-election of O’Connor as electorate MP, but wholesale trouncing of Labour in the Party vote against National.

  3. insider 3

    “and Labour is likely to be able to give the Maori Party a better deal”

    You’re joking right? Seabed and foreshore, is that the better deal they would be offered? The way Labour ran screaming from Closing the Gaps, the so called flagship policy?

  4. outofbed 4

    the Moari Party vote would be better off going to the Greens actually.
    They have more policies in common and are the only other party whose party constitution includes the treaty
    oh and they voted against the foreshore and seabed act

  5. Steve Pierson 5

    outofbed. agreed that the Greens and MP have most in common but I mean of the major parties.

    insider. Maori unemployment was running at 30% under National, it’s more like 5% now. That matters. So does Maori TV, greater incorporation of Moari practice into policy development and ceremony – both of which National routinely oppose to excite the bigot vote.

  6. outofbed 6

    also, some sort of “agreement ” betwixt the Greens and the MP
    would give them much much more bargaining power in any post Election negotiations

  7. Phil 7

    “So does Maori TV, greater incorporation of Moari practice into policy development and ceremony – both of which National routinely oppose to excite the bigot vote.”

    Aren’t you forgetting the outright lies and innuendo spread by Clark/Mallard et al in the late 90’s over Maori TV, in its original guise under the National Government? I though everyone would remember Tuku Morgan and ‘undie-gate’…
    Funnily enough, Helen was quite happy to have the Herald act like her journalistic poodle on that one.

    There was a great book written a while back by one of the board members or senior managers of Maori TV, which laid out his side of the story – I cannot recall the title but it was a brilliant read and well worth looking out for.

  8. mike 8

    “The way Labour ran screaming from Closing the Gaps”
    Yes it was great to see that separatist policy trashed so quickly.
    How proud Clark must have made Maori feel with her preferencial treatment based on race…

  9. Santi 9

    The Maori Party will trounce Labour, will win the Maori seats and then will negotiate the sell of its votes to the highest bidder, in another euphemistically called “Supply and Confidence” agreement.

    Maori elite haven’t done much for its lesser bothers and sisters over many years, so do not expect much change this time around.

    Racism is racism whatever the colour of the skin.

  10. Jay 10

    “Maori unemployment was running at 30% under National, it’s more like 5% now.”

    Where did you get the stats for this? I was under the impression that it was a lot higher but haven’t really followed it. I would assume that it is considerably lower than it was in the 90s.

  11. Steve Pierson 11

    jay. this has a graph of maori unemployment under National (its actually Maori men, who got near 30%, Maori women *only* low 20%s)


    here’s something on the current level http://www.dol.govt.nz/publications/lmr/lmr-quick-facts-maori.asp . 7.7%, it’s Pacific unemployment that’s gone below 5%.

  12. MikeE 12

    The Maori Party have the closest voting record to the ACT party. I think its pushing it to say that Labour are the parties logical coalition partners, especially considering the likely attitudes Turia has towards Clark (and Vice Versa) regarding the “last cab off the rank” comments.

    Add in the forshore and seabed issues, Maori Parties respect for property rights (treaty issues), dislike of welfare reliance, etc and I think that Maori Party is more likely to side with the right than the left, well more so than say United Future or New Zealand First.

    With Maori traditionally voting labour, and the Maori Party likely to take up the Maori seats and get party votes in said seats, it actually benifits parties of the right with more Maori’s on the Maori roll.

    Which is ironic considering most of the parties of the right philosophically are against the seats, even though in practical terms they likely benifit from them.

  13. AncientGeek 13

    Anecdotal I know.

    But the various maori I run across and start discussing politics with are far more informed about the party/electorate vote than the general population. At least amongst the middle aged I tend to associate with (and who actually vote).

    I think that the strong electorate vote to the Maori Party with majority of the party vote going to Labour in the last election (see http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PubRes/Research/Electorates/) was quite deliberate. From the various discussions, I think that they will do exactly the same again this election. It effectively increases the reach of Maori into the political process.

    Somehow I don’t think that the Maori party will start playing footsie with the Nat’s. It’d alienate too many of the voters that party voted for Labour.

    But there is probably going to be a hell of fight for some of the electorate seats. An awful lot of that will be done directly on the personality and mana of the candidates.

  14. Steve Pierson 14

    MikeE, what are you talking about? Did you just make that up?

    the Maori Party’s voting record most closely aligns to the Greens’. They hardly ever vote with ACT. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10472445&pnum=0

    AncientG. I agree, Maori roll voters’ voting-splitting in 2005 was the largest use of tactical voting we’ve seen so far under MMP. A very astute move that requires a good understanding of the system.

  15. Matthew Pilott 15

    Maori tactical voting is virtual exploitation of the system (but good on maori roll voters for realising this! And who wouldn’t take advantage of a system like this if they could?). MMP assists minor parties and fringe ‘interest’ based parties into parliament.

    The overhang is basically a doubling up of Maori influence in parliament, as the purpose of MMP is to assist representation of a group or party, as are the Maori steats.

  16. Jay 16


    Worrying numbers for maori youth employment though since they have a younger population.

    Still there is a big difference between 5 and 7.7%.

    I would have thought that this post would have given more support to Labour maori MPs but I suppose it’s realistic given the Maori hatred of the FSA those MP’s are toast.

  17. MikeE 17

    Steve it doesn’t compare Maori to ACT voting patterns, so your link doesn’t prove anything.

    I’ll put it this way.

    In my view Maori Party vote closer to ACT than national does.

  18. the owl 18

    I would be more convinced that the Maori Party will is up to playing kingmaker if it weren’t for comments like Pita Sharples recent threat that and the Maori Party cannot support National if they win the election ..not if they keep their policy to abolish Maori seats.

    I would be a little more reassured if he took a stand over something other than his own employment security, after all that policy would put him out of a job wouldn’t it?

    But what about withholding support for National if they bring back market rents for state housing, which they will surely do, if they don’t sell off all the state housing as they tried last time they were government. Surely Pita’s Maori electorate wouldn’t want their MP supporting that policy? There are probably a lot of National policies that his electorate don’t like since nearly 11, 000 of them gave their party vote to Labour in the last election and only 800 gave their party vote to National. You would think that would tell Pita his electorate don’t want him cozying up to National.

    I would like to see the Maori Party commit to giving their support to the party that their Maori roll voters support.

  19. aebelieve 19

    The Maori Party have done well to stay positive and stay focused on improving conditions while Labour and the Nats have been ripping each other to shreds. I think they have to keep spreading their policy intentions as braodly as possible and not be stuck as the “fix up the negatives” party that others try to label them as. Contest the 7 Maori seats as well as appealing to voters for the Party vote. Put up positions for future negotiation in education, in health and definitely with the Treaty of Waitangi as the other 2 parties seek to dimish its standing. And don’t say who the Party will vote for right now – why? FPTP is gone so it’s no longer only about the top 2 – the minority parties are just as influential. If it were up to me, I would go independent again, keeping whoever wins in check. This time around though, having 7 votes would be a powerful incentive to talk and not to ram through policies which both Labour and National have been guilty of in the past. The Maori Party was marginalised when it first entered and now, because of its positive example and diverse MP’s, is being applauded and courted. Besides, most of the comments here, I assuume, are from people not on the Maori roll to begin with, making it easy to throw advice from the sidelines. I’d like to see more Maori comment since the FS&SB issue, the Maori seats and the Treaty all involve them. Good luck to the Maori Party this time and keep up the great efforts!!

  20. Anita 20


    Are you saying that you think the Māori Party shouldn’t give confidence and supply to either Labour or National?

  21. Im Maori and will not vote for the Maori party if it means they will prop up a national government. I know many maori feel the same way. Different story if the Maori Party leadership gave some signal that it will respond to the wishes of the voters in relation to the party vote. That would not require their cuddling up to either nat or labour. Unfortunately the majority of voters who gave labour their party vote were ignored, not only that but had to suffer the indignity of witnessing the MP’s sucking up to Don Brash If the Orewa speech was not enought to deter them what will. Nationals commitment to abolishing the Maori seats, clearly indicates the ideology of a party that is repugnant to Maori. The only realistic alternative is some arrangement with Labour and I hope that possibility presents itself before the election.
    Confidence and supply to labour will win the day for the Maori Party…conditional of course on the repeal of the F & S

  22. bill brown 22

    What if the Nats promised the MP that they would abolish the F & S for confidence and supply, before the election? would you vote MP then?

  23. Lew 23

    BB: I’ve sometimes wondered whether National might try to set up some sort of swapsie with the māori party – Foreshore and Seabed for Māori seats or somesuch. But the problem with this is that the National Party refused to support the F&S Act, not because they disagreed with the principle of interrupting due judicial progress by fiat of legislation, but because they considered that the F&S Act didn’t go far enough in locking down the coast in government possession for perpetuity. The agreement with the Crown signed by several Ngāti Porou hapÅ« over the coast in parts of their rohe, for example, would be totally unacceptable to the Nats.

    Maybe they’ve changed, but I don’t think so; and I don’t think Māori think so, either – in line with what Alexandra says. Labour haven’t been kind to Māori, but they still seem the lesser of the two evils.

    Alexandra: The māori party have an informal party-vote deal with the Greens – people vote māori party in the seven māori electorates, and give the Greens the party vote. I think this could see the Greens and māori party forming a quite strong alliance which could work to their benefit. only if the Greens break ranks should they campaign for the party vote – though it might happen in 2011 as the māori party grows. Interesting times.


  24. BB No, not under any circumstances if they support tha Nats. In the unlikey event that the Nats agree to the repeal the F&S it will still come at the expense of National policy for lower wages, smashing union collective bargaining, privitisation of SOEs and Acc and god knows what else, probably health and education. Single parents and other beneficiaries being stigmatised more than they already are. I would need to be convinced that the Maori party is a left one in terms of general policy and Im not so sure at present, given the voting history. I think they should use the F&S as a lever but not at the expense of progress in other areas of social and economic development for Maori.

    Lew, interesting advice about the greens. Im confident they will not want a national lead government. Hope they are not disappointed and their strategy with the Maori party, has some conditions attached in that regard. I think the greens do well regardless.

  25. bill brown 25

    So if the MP will not go with Labour because of F & S and will not go with the Nats for any reason (and I’m not so convinced about this) – where does that leave them – on the sidelines forever?

  26. Lew 26

    BB: Nope. On the sidelines (in terms of votes) until another party realises they need another 4-7 votes, at which point they come cap-in-hand. They’ll have to be patient.

    But politics isn’t just about voting – and it’s not even mostly about voting, that’s just the business end. Politics is about discourse – defining norms of speech and principle and policy. That’s the māori party’s main task – wedging their kaupapa Māori political philosophy into the NZ political mainstream. In principle, that should have collateral effects far beyond mere partisan politics. That’s the long game, and while being part of a government could help advance this strategy, it could on the other hand be deleterious to this strategy if the māori party allow their principles to be subsumed by the agenda of a major party. Their position is as an independent voice for Māori – explicitly opposed to the roles of other Māori MPs through history, who (they argue) have sacrificed some or all of their Māori political agenda in the name of pragmatism. That’s their point of difference, and they give it up at their peril.


  27. The odds of national repealing the F & S, in light of their position during the debate and that of their supporters is incredibly remote. The nats will not want to isolate their core support, who are by and large apposed to treaty settlements. That the Nats want to do away with the Maori seats reflects the attitude. For example the ‘foreshore for all’ petition put out by the farming lobby in response to the government wanting to open access to waterways to the public. A completely different issue but cynically manipulated during the discussion on the F&S bill. Farmers wanting to protect their private property rights but deny Maori of the same.

    I think a deal is possible with Labour whilst maintaining critical independance. If the Maori Party go against their voters preference in terms of the party vote which is exactly what has happend they will be on the ‘sidelines forever’. If the party votes swing to national then so be it, fair enough..Ill eat my hat!

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