Today saw the launch of the Māori Party’s 2011 election campaign in Whanganui-a-Tara with several major announcements, a few surprises, and plenty of fighting talk from the leaders.
The main talking point will be the announcement by Tariana Turia that she will not seek re-election in 2014. While this will come as no surprise to followers of the Māori Party, it serves as confirmation of the end of a great career. Turia has been an inspirational leader of Māori from within Parliament and her retirement will leave a massive hole in Parliament. It also opens up a big debate over the future direction of the Māori Party. Finding someone to replace Turia will be difficult, and the task will be even more immense if Rahui Katene fails to win the closely fought battle for the Te Tai Tonga electorate seat. The survival of the Māori Party will depend on how well they can replace Turia. Perhaps a few discussions should be held with the Green Party after their successful transfer of power from their founding leaders through to Russel Norman and Metiria Turei.
The Party’s list selection was the major surprise of the day. The current MP’s have been placed down the list with Waihoroi Shortland (Te Tai Tokerau candidate) placed at number 1 and Rahui Katene standing as an electorate MP only. This strategy is a huge gamble, with the Māori Party looking to signal to Te Tai Tonga Māori that now the only way to have two Māori MP’s elected is to vote for Katene as their electorate MP. Māori voters are very sophisticated strategic voters so this strategy has the potential to swing the seat back towards Katene, but should this strategy fail, her political career is over. It will be a sad end to a very effective, behind-the-scenes, MP. The list ranking also shows a clear intent from the Māori Party that they are no longer intent on only winning electorate seats. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Māori Party could achieve between 4% and 7% of the popular vote at a general election, a position which would bring in several list MP’s alongside the electorate MP’s. By placing non-MP candidates at the top of the list, the Party is placing an emphasis on increasing their share of the party vote.
Policy wise, Radio NZ provides the following summary:
A Radio New Zealandpolitical reporter says it will focus on three main areas: Whanau Ora, the Treaty of Waitangi and good government.
The Maori Party will push for a $16-an-hour minimum wage and is pledging to end whanau, or family, poverty by 2020.
It will also announce a new policy which would ask every Maori organisation to give two young Maori a job. It says based on current projections, that would provide 11,686 young Maori people with a job.
The tripartite focus is a strong platform on which to campaign, and reflects a forward-looking approach to policy prescriptions. The problem for the Māori Party, however, is that this time around they are not only campaigning on their policy, but also on their record. Their electoral fortunes will depend on how well they can defend their record over the past three years.
What will be pleasing to supporters is the fighting nature of the Party. With attacks coming thick and fast from Te Mana and Labour, the Māori Party have responded with a clear statement that they intend to continue fighting hard for Māori and, in doing so, they still remain the only party in New Zealand doing so with a singular Māori voice. Dr. Sharples was unequivocal in his statement that John Minto and Sue Bradford, while representing Te Mana, do not represent Māori and can not stand up for Māori. If Pākehā wish to support Māori in our endeavours then that is great. But the whole meaning of Tino Rangatiratanga is Māori control of Māori affairs. The Māori Party understand this, Te Mana are not quite there yet.