Maori Party co-leaders have second thoughts about quitting
Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia say they are having second thoughts about quitting at the next election.
The pair told Prime News they would make a decision by the end of July.
The news comes on the heels of a poll that showed a Labour-Greens block with 46% to National’s 47% (and a fresh poll today that saw the pair edging ahead). If ACT and United remain on one MP, that would leave the Maori Party holding the balance of power.
The Maori Party has a confidence and supply agreement with National, and Mr Sharples (70) and Ms Turia (68) serve as ministers outside cabinet. Some on both sides have quailed at the arrangement, but Mr Sharples, especially, has proved skilled at selling the deal in common-sense language to both his party's base and middle New Zealand (although there have been limits to his success as the party's number of MPs has shrunk from five to three).
"Before the last election we talked about standing down but at that point we didn’t know we were going to lose a seat," Ms Turia said. "In fact we were very hopeful of winning another seat."
“It may well be that we do stand at the next election, but we are still working those issues through”
In a separate interview, Mr Sharples - described as "currently in China on business" said “I’m giving that some real consideration. I did want to knock off after three terms and do some writing."
Asked if fresh blood was needed, Mr Sharples repleid, “It certainly is, but whether the circumstances are right now we’re down to three members and two of those are leaders – that’s the question."
Te Ururoa Flavell is the third Maori Party MP.
From five to three
At its peak, after the 2008 election, the Maori Party had five MPs.
At the 2011 election, Labour won back Te Tai Tonga (covering most of Wellington and all of the South Island).
In July 2011, Hone Harawira won Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) in a by-election after defecting from the Maori Party to form Mana. He held the seat in November.
Mr Harawira maintains the Maori Party has betrayed its supporters by entering a coalition deal with National.
Mr Sharples squeaked by Labour's Shane Jones by 936 votes at November's election in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).
Ms Turia's 3221 majority in Te Tai Hauāuru (the west of the North Island south of Waikato) was the Maori Party's only solid win.
Mr Flavell won Waiariki (Taupo and the Bay of Plenty) by 1800 votes.