There’s a lot of talk about a reunification of the Mana and Maori Parties after the Ikaroa-Rawhiti result. The claim that, because the Mana and Maori candidates’ joint total was higher than Labour’s, they could have won the seat if they were united is, of course, moronic – you can’t assume the absence of one of those candidates would have seen all his votes go to the other. Nevertheless, a united Mana Maori would be more powerful than the two divided. So. what are the chances?
Let’s look at the two options: full reunion or a truce whereby the parties divide up the Maori seats and don’t run against each other.
Tariana Turia has said that she would support the two parties reuniting. It would bring back the activists that they lost to Mana and reboot her discredited political movement. But she’s retiring any way and, she’s the female co-leader so her job isn’t on the line here. Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell are much less welcoming of a reunion.
There can be only one male co-leader (if they don’t want to be a laughingstock) and that person would be Hone as part of any Mana Maori union. Sharples is likely to retire soon, so it’s really a question of whether Flavell would support a union. Flavell has said that people are welcome to talk about a union but it’s just talk. So, that’s a big fat ‘no’ from him. He wants to be co-leader and he’s not going to give that up easy.
Of course, there’s a chance that the Maori Party would go ahead with a union with Mana without getting Flavell on board,but he would probably throw in the towel at that point. And that would mean that all 3 sitting Maori Party MPs would be gone… so in what sense would that be a union? It would be more like Mana taking over a shell of a party.
There’s also a timing issue with any union. Hone won’t work with National. Turia and Sharples won’t give up the ministerial limos. So, any formal union could only come into effect at the next election. Key might find it prudent to strip the Maori Party of its portfolios and dissolve the C&S agreement before that whenever an agreement to unify is agreed.
What about the two parties dividing up the Maori seats between them? Well, three of them are in Labour’s hands and they’re not going to lose them to either of Maori or Mana (or, I suspect, a united Mana Maori). That leaves Tāmaki Makaurau, Te Tai Hauāuru, Te Tai Tokerau, and Waiariki. Mana isn’t going to settle for just one of those seats, not when it can potentially take more.
So, in a truce, the Maori Party would have to give over at least one more seat to Mana. The obvious one is Waiariki. Mana’s number 2, Annette Sykes ran there and came a credible second last time, reducing Flavell’s majority by two thirds. She could win it next time regardless of any deal). Waiariki is the only one where the Maori Party stepping aside would assure a Mana victory –
Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauāuru wou.d likely go Labour without a Maori Party candidate.
So, you can see what the barrier is to any truce deal, eh? The same as the barrier to any union of Mana and Maori. Flavell. He’s not going to agree to giving up his seat for the sake of a truce any more than he will agree to giving up the co-leadership to Hone for a union.
So, it comes down to this: is the Maori Party prepared to jettison Flavell for a union or truce with Hone?
I don’t see it happening.
Instead, I see the Maori Party dying off – down to 1 seat in 2014 with the loss of Tāmaki Makaurau and Waiariki to Labour and Mana respectively. And the lone survivor – Turia’s replacement in Te Tai Hauāuru – going over to Mana when the Maori Party goes below 500 members some time in the next term.
And that’s no more than the Maori Party deserves for deserting its principles in favour of trinkets from National.