This last weekend I’ve been at the Mana Movement AGM in Rotorua where the biggest issue discussed was the much-speculated potential electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party.
Because it’s been such an important debate for Mana and because we’ve been asked about it by so many Mana members and supporters who couldn’t be at the 250 strong AGM I’ll outline some of the key issues the movement considered – and is still considering.
The proposal for some sort of electoral relationship arose from a meeting between Mana leader Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom earlier in the year. The first benefit to both Mana Movement and the Internet Party – and the country for that matter – is to ensure all votes cast to get rid of the National government are counted. Under current law a party which falls short of the 5% threshold has its votes wasted – potentially up to 130,000 anti-National votes not counted.
This fundamentally undemocratic aspect of our MMP system is a result of pressure from National and Labour to keep parliament as a cosy duopoly and disenfranchise thousands of voters in the process.
So the AGM debated at length whether to proceed to formally explore a possible alliance. It was a riveting four hours as speakers spoke for or against the idea.
As part of the discussion I was asked to present what I saw as the “pros” and “cons” of a possible “strategic alliance” with the Internet Party.
Here’s what I came up with:
1. Increased profile for Mana and as we are seen as more relevant with a larger combined party vote with the Internet Party.
2. Creation of interest and even excitement among many younger voters and non-voters.
3. A greater likelihood of getting Mana Movement list MPs through a combined party vote.
4. Greater resources to fight a party vote campaign.
5. Greater resources to help inspire and enrol current non-voters and get them to the polling booth.
6. There is already some areas of strong policy agreement with the Internet Party to: stop GCSB spying, withdraw from the “five eyes” spy alliance, provide internet privacy rights and cheap/free access to the internet, provide free tertiary education and oppose the TPPA.
7. Ensuring that the Internet Party and their supporters are committed to changing the government.
8. MANA brand remains in Maori electorate campaigns which are a key focus this election.
1. Damage to the public perception of Mana:
- · Mana may lose respect as a kaupapa Maori movement and damage our chances in the Maori seats.
- · Mana Movement may lose respect as a movement for the poor and dispossessed if we have an alliance with a high-profile wealthy partner.
- · Mana Movement may be seen by some as compromising our principles for money (irrespective of the truth of this)
2. A potential watering down of our policies to create a joint Mana-Internet Party vote campaign.
3. A potential loss of control of Mana policy and direction to a new joint venture.
4. A risk of ending up with fewer seats than we would have on our own.
The three key questions which arose from this are:
1. Would an alliance enhance or damage Mana as a kaupapa Maori movement?
2. Would an alliance enable us to gain greater parliamentary representation without compromising our policies or principles?
3. How would we retain our integrity, and be seen to retain our integrity, in such an alliance?
All speakers recognised the risks to the movement and to the individuals involved – we all value our integrity – but after four hours a clear consensus emerged that we should take the step to see if an arrangement agreeable to Mana can be reached. (Each of Mana’s seven rohe supported the decision to keep talking with the Internet Party)
So despite some media reports no decision has been taken to enter an alliance with the Internet Party. We are withholding judgement till we see what emerges from further discussion. At that point any possible agreement will be discussed by Mana rohe and branches before a final vote is taken.
It will be an important decision for Mana and could be a very important decision for the country.