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.