Should political parties consider strategic deals in Māori seats?

By Maiki Sherman

Should political parties consider strategic deals in Māori seats?  It's a manoeuvre which is usually seen in general seats, including the Epsom deal between National and Act, but is rarely seen in Māori electorates.

As the Northland by-election nears closer, it's no secret Labour is all but backing Winston Peters.  But how well does that sort of strategy go down with Māori voters and what would it look like in Māori electorates?

Willow-Jean Prime is still out garnering votes, despite the Labour Party backing Winston Peters.

She says, “In the past that type of strategy has been heavily criticised but perhaps the political playing field is changing.”

Deals are certainly nothing new in general electorates the infamous Epsom "cup of tea" is the prime example.

At the general election MANA also made moves into that arena by merging with the Internet Party.

Dr Maria Barge says, “I think the conversation around the Māori electorates, Hone in some way started it by his joining with the Internet Party at the last election and a lot of people said then that they weren't keen on the idea of a non-Māori party getting in on the back of essentially a Māori vote.”

MANA certainly tested the waters, its Tāmaki Makaurau candidate going as far as to publicly backing Labour's Peeni Henare.

However, Peeni Henare says there's no place for deals in the Māori electorates.

Some say that it is underhanded.  If you put your hand up, you do so knowing that you are genuinely contesting that role.

Dr Maria Barge says, “If you're of the parties that have dominated those seats like Labour, I think you'd be thinking that we should stick with the status quo.  But if you're from a smaller party or you're thinking of starting up another Māori party then you probably would be keen on doing some kind of deal.”

The Green Party says some form of agreement could work in the Māori seats, but for the time being they're not interested.

Metiria Turei says, “It's unlikely that we would do something like that but these discussions happen every election and it would be interesting to see if two parties working quite closely together how that might work.”

With Labour holding six of the seven Māori seats, Dr Maria Barge says both the Māori Party and MANA should consider such strategies.

Dr Maria Barge says, “They would be wise to talk to their membership and gage whether this is an appropriate idea according to their membership and then get a second idea around which kinds of political parties their members would be happy to team up with basically and then formalise that closer to election.”

The biggest warning there is certainly to ensure everyone's on the same boat if that path were to be journeyed.  Failure to do so could see you at the bottom of the sea.