John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer were announced last week as the new Co-leaders of the Māori Party.
What is the strategic math behind a possible return to power for the Māori Party?
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer will be standing in Te Tai Hauāuru. Labour’s Adrian Rurawhe won the sea in 2017 by 1039 votes over the Māori Party candidate, Howie Tamati, but what makes the electorate so competitive in 2020 is that the former Green Party MP, Jack McDonald who won 2798 votes in 2017 came out in January this year endorsing Ngarewa-Packer for Te Tai Hauāuru.
This will make retaining the seat a much more difficult challenge for Labour, especially with a candidate as invisible as Rurawhe, whose endorsement of Labour’s decision to open up Taranaki to a huge onshore oil and gas block offer will galvanise Green voters against him.
Tāmaki Makaurau is just as interesting. Peeni Henare comfortably won for Labour over the Māori Party’s Shane Taurima by a staggering 3809 votes, but with all due respect to Shane, the softly spoken Peeni hasn’t ever met a candidate like Tamihere.
Tamihere initially won Tamaki Makaurau back in 2002 and his bruising campaigning style against Phil Goff built a huge social media following that is mostly based in that electorate.
Peeni has 7900 Facebook followers, whereas Tamihere has over 11 000 most of whom are in the seat, add to this the decision by Marama Davidson to actively campaign this time in Tāmaki Makaurau, and Labour face a real challenge in both electorates.
If the Māori Party win one electorate seat and can gain 1.8% of the Party vote, they will pull an extra MP off the Party-list. Those two MPs in an election that could be very close might be the difference between Government and Opposition.