The Ikaroa-Rawhiti breakdown

By   /   July 1, 2013  /   16 Comments

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The message is clear: Mana and the Maori Party must unite. If not, Labour will sweep the Maori seats by 2017. When the tino rangatiratanga vote peels left and right, Labour gallops up the middle.

  1. Meka Whaitiri (Labour): 4,368 (42%)
  2. Te Hamua Nikora (Mana): 2,607 (25%)
  3. Na Raihania (Maori Party): 2,104 (20%)
  4. Maraman Davidson (Greens): 1,188 (11%)
  5. Other (Legalise Cannabis and Independents): 206 (2%)

The results have met expectations. Meka won with a comfortable buffer, Te Hamua edged out Na Raihania and Marama Davidson performed better than the Greens did in 2011.*

The theme: unity or division

The message is clear: Mana and the Maori Party must unite. If not, Labour will sweep the Maori seats by 2017. When the tino rangatiratanga vote peels left and right, Labour gallops up the middle.

Does that mean “Labour is rising”?

Labour’s revival has been limp. After losing four seats in 2005 and another in 2008, Labour has regained one (Te Tai Tonga in 2011). Ikaroa-Rawhiti was and is a Labour seat. Its retention isn’t surprising. In 2008 – off of the back of the Urewera raids and the foreshore and seabed – Labour secured 57% of the party vote in. In 2011 – the same year the party’s national vote reached a historic low – Labour secured 50% of the party vote in Ikaroa-Rawhiti.

In that context, 42% of the candidate vote is not exceptional. Labour isn’t rising. I don’t want to be unduly harsh, but this was a default win. Labour didn’t dominate the discourse – if anything Meka was excluded from it – and Labour let the narrative swing against them. Meka became cold and aloof while Te Hamua became the B.R.O and Na could get the J.O.B done.

On the strength of their byelection performance, Labour won’t sweep the seven seats in 2014. Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki will hold (at this point) for Mana and the Maori Party, though Labour is well placed to secure Te Tai Hauauru and Tamaki Makaurau. But 2017 might be Labour’s year…

So does that mean Mana is rising?

Te Hamua and Mana did enough to secure the momentum in 2014. The next election (in all of the Maori electorates) will be between Labour and Mana. The Maori Party will be third wheeling.

In one sense, turn out punished Mana. In another sense, turn out saved them.

Only 1 in 3 enrolled voters voted. 1 in 3. The early vote count indicated that Te Hamua was within striking distance. However, Te Hamua fell as the ordinary votes (the votes cast on the day) were counted. Andrew Geddis is right to argue that “the only people who bothered to cast a vote were the most motivated/most loyal individuals”. Mana managed to turn out its most feverish supporters, but its target market (the disengaged) appears to have stayed home.

Perception punished Te Hamua too. He was the bro, yeah, but that wasn’t seen to be underpinned by an ability to get shit done. Among habitual voters that were not party political, ability is more important than street credibility. Regular voters are more sophisticated than B.R.O rhetoric.

Can we write the Maori Party’s death warrant?

Put it this way: they won’t gain any seats.

The Maori Party’s strength is that they can work within the system. The same is true of Labour, but Labour is accountable to New Zealand as a whole. The Maori Party is accountable to Maori. Na argued the point over and over and over – without making headway.

The easy is answer is that the Maori Party has a communications problem. The issues are more deep rooted and cannot be blamed on Na. There’s an issue of trust and unity.

The Maori Party’s political rationale was opposition to the foreshore and seabed. The party abolished the act, but replaced it (with direction and support from National) with a similarly dissatisfying act. On its founding rationale, the Maori Party surrendered its pride and enacted a piece of legislation nearly as demeaning as the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. That eroded much of the trust Maori had placed in the party. If you promise the Earth, you better deliver the universe. That didn’t happen.

The drama around Hone Harawira’s expulsion and the leadership has also eroded the Maori Party’s founding principle – kotahitanga (unity). Hone kept the contract between the party’s radicals and conservatives intact. Without Hone, kotahitanga becomes a nice word the Maori Party throws around to make itself feel better. Continuing fights between Tariana, Pita and Te Ururoa further undermine the idea that the Maori Party is about kotahitanga. Politics is the Maori Party’s guiding principle now. If the Maori Party wants to restore kotahitanga then conciliation with Mana is a must.

Conclusion…

The next election is between Labour and Mana.

The Greens will also be a force. Metiria and Marama have established the Greens as a credible and regular part of Maori political discourse.

The Maori Party will be on the peripheral.

The Maori seats won’t revert to a Labour monopoly, but the message is clear:  Mana and the Maori Party must unite. If not, Labour will sweep the Maori seats by 2017. When the tino rangatiratanga vote peels left and right, Labour gallops up the middle.

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About the author

Morgan Godfery

Morgan Godfery - Te Pahipoto, Lalomanu (Samoa). Morgan is based in Wellington and is a political writer specialising in Maori politics. Better known as the author of Maui Street, Morgan spends too much time following international politics, indigenous peoples and TV. He is humbled to be a part of New Zealand’s best blogging line up.

16 Comments

  1. Lily says:

    You assume the Mana Party is a for-Maori party – when its founding principles clearly say they are a Party that represents all ethnicities that share common needs. Why would you think the Maori Party is a natural fit to that? I don’t think they are. The Maori Party was set up to capture the broader values for pan Maori. They are the only Party representing Maori interests in the asset spectrums.
    The Mana Party and the Labour left wing are a more natural political fit.

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    • fatty says:

      I agree Lily. I’ll leave the Mana Movement if they unite with those neoliberal lapdogs. What has the Maori Party and Mana got to do with each other? Come on Morgan, engage your brain…looks like a poor analysis and ethnic-essentialism.

      Mana have more in common with the Green Party, or the Left from Labour. The Maori Party share the same values as the National Party.

      The voters of the Maori Party will vote for Mana, there is no need to unite, doing so will only dismantle Mana’s base. As for the Maori Party MPs, they can stay at National’s table until they’ve finished their crumbs.

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      • Morgan Godfery Morgan Godfery says:

        You’ve misinterpreted my post. Maybe you should engage your brain, Fatty.

        1) Unity doesn’t have to mean a merger. A deal would do, say, Mana ran a party vote campaign in the Maori electorates while the Maori Party ran a candidate campaign (or vice versa). Maori political commentators are united on this (including Mana’s Matt McCarten and also Rawiri Taonui).

        2) Assuming that Maori Party voters will vote for Mana isn’t correct. For the most part, Na retained the support he won at the 2011 election. The Maori Party’s may have reached its base, but that base appears to be solidifying. Mana bled support from Labour and encouraged (some, but not many) non-voters to turn out.

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        • fatty says:

          Perhaps ou should be more careful about using statements such as – The message is clear: Mana and the Maori Party must unite.
          I still don’t see what I’ve misinterpreted. The overarching point of the post is that Maori and Mana share a similar philosophy, I see them as very different. The Maori Party are dying a death they deserve. Good riddance to them. You should be suggesting that the Maori Party and one of those right-wing parties ‘unite’ (I’m still unsure what you mean by ‘unite’)

          Your first point just sounds like you want Maori to get more crumbs off the table. Why would Mana help a National coalition partner? Would you expect the Greens to ‘unite’ with ACT since they both want decriminalisation of weed and are socially liberal?
          Your second point I agree with, I didn’t mean all Maori voters would vote Mana in the future. Many of the Maori Party voters are neoliberal tory-apologists. As you say, Mana are taking votes from the failing Labour Party.

          I’m not playing dumb here, I just can’t see why Mana would want to ‘unite’ with the Maori Party. My friends warned me this would happen, I told them it won’t, and if it does, a new left party will emerge.

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          • Morgan Godfery Morgan Godfery says:

            If the Maori Party wants to restore kotahitanga then conciliation with Mana is a must – Conciliation doesn’t mean merging. Conciliation means cooperation, but I should have made that clearer.

            I think it’s best if Maori have an independent political voice on the right (the Maori Party) and the left (Mana) and that is the view of many Maori. If it wasn’t, the Maori Party would’ve died its death by now and Te Tai Tokerau would not have returned Hone as a Mana MP.

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            • fatty says:

              OK, well that’s where we differ. I see right wing economics as being racist and anti-Maori. For example, trying to fit compulsory Te Reo in with market driven economics is something I don’t see happening.
              I can’t see Maori sovereignty developing or existing under right-wing economics, instead I see Maori sovereignty just being a myth, and a tool for the neoliberals, and we’ll just see a continuation of Maori culture as a form of tokenism under Pakeha defined biculturalism.
              Likewise, I don’t see socialism happening in a NZ context without having a strong Maori-centric focus within it. This is because racism will still exist even under a socialist economic system, due to historical issues, cultural discourses and the dominance of Pakeha knowledge.
              Mana aren’t perfect, and no party can be for most people, but I see them as being the best by a long way in sorting our socio-economic issues. I’m not sure what the Maori Party offers anyone – except a very few privileged Maori.

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              • Morgan Godfery Morgan Godfery says:

                An interesting perspective. Some hapu ran thriving capitalist (micro)economies in the 19th and 20th century. Some of the most respected politicians in Te Ao Maori were conservatives and capitalists (e.g. Ngata, Carroll). Having said that, it doesn’t always hold true (e.g. Savage).

                However, I see the existing Maori economy as, in many respects, socialist. The whanau, hapu or iwi tend to own the assets (rather than the individual) and the management of those assets is co-operative. However, I don’t think that should mean Maori should reject the capitalist economy. I think the solution is more pragmatic – bend the economy to Maori needs and that is what many Maori have attempted to do.

                The Maori Party – for all its faults – is an attempt to bend the system in the favour of Maori. Mana is an attempt to remake the system. On that view, I think there is room for both.

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        • Mana managed to turn out its most feverish supporters, but its target market (the disengaged) appears to have stayed home.

          That, to me is the real problwem: getting disengaged voters out…

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      • Wikitoria says:

        I don’t think it should be taken as a given that Maori party supporters will switch over to Mana. Hone Harawria is not everybody’s favourite person. His constant sniping from the tree tops since his departure from the Maori party does not win support. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree…

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  2. Noah C says:

    Morgan, i agree with you re: trust and unity. The Maori Party started losing it in 2008 when Tariana Turia claimed they were listening to ‘our people’ over whether to join with the Nats. She neglected to say her people were only those who were party members, excluding anyone else who voted for her party (there were a lot of them).

    The tragedy of all this is still no party’s able to connect with the disconnected. Perhaps that’s a political statement in itself – 66% Maori Roll voters who aren’t voting might be saying when the political process is such a mess, and marginalises more than unites, why bother?

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  3. Ckiwi says:

    “The theme: unity or division”

    The Mana and Maori party’s are Division personified. If if they unite they still divide a Country with Race based Seats.

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  4. ak says:

    Ae, Kotahitanga: the final frontier and holy grail of every underdog ever. And thus the target of every oppressor’s crumbs from thirty pieces of silver to whanau ora.

    It’s abiding grasp held the door ajar – and now, in a dazzling moment of unprecedented opportunity, it is flung wide open by Hone. The sole remaining question: are Te Ururoa’s eyes still clear enough to see it?

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  5. Ovicula says:

    I see the Maori Party and the Mana Movement as two very different creatures. The Maori Party is a desperate attempt by conventionally influential Maori to maintain some collective relevance under neoliberalism and belongs to a past which capitalist decay will not let us revisit. The Mana Movement takes the lessons of the past and strives to build a future which will have a place in it for the majority of the citizens of Aotearoa, beginning from the socio-economic base. These goals are completely contradictory and the Maori Party should be left to die.

    Mana will grow in concert with the Greens and the disaffected Labour rank and file. I also don’t see Labour as it stands today going very far at all. Shearer and co are just NAct light, with added public disloyalty for comic relief. Cunliffe and what passes for the Labour left will never make any headway as long as Labour remains a party of Wellington machine politicians. In fact, as the broader left grows, I fully expect to see many of the Labour seat warmers look for a coalition of National Salvation with National, against those who have been their natural constituency since the beginning. The role of Mana, the Greens, and the Labour left is to build so this will be ineffective.

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  6. […] On Maui Street, Morgan Godfery gives a précis of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti breakdown – which he continues in full on The Daily Blog. […]

  7. Noah C says:

    So Pita Sharples now gone. Will that make a difference for the 2/3 Maori who are disconnected? I doubt it. Parliament still sucks when it comes to advancing Maori interests.

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  8. Keir Leslie says:

    The last time we had a Mana-Maori Party (i.e the pre-split Maori Party) it was unable to hold together. What would be different this time around?

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