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Battle over Maori seats looms as rival parties spar


A pitched battle over the Maori seats is looming as the feud between the Maori and Mana parties gives Labour the chance to split the Maori vote at the election.

NZPA
Tue, 10 May 2011

A pitched battle over the Maori seats is looming as the feud between the Maori and Mana parties gives Labour the chance to split the Maori vote at the election.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has indicated he could defy an agreement with the Maori Party by putting up candidates against them in all seven Maori seats.

The move follows the Maori Party's decision to stand a candidate against Mr Harawira in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election.

Mr Harawira said the Maori Party's decision to stand against him breached an agreement he entered into with the party after he quit in February over the Maori Party's relationship with the Government.

But the Maori Party says Mr Harawira breached the agreement first by saying he would quit Parliament to force a by-election.

The ongoing stoush between the two parties gives Labour the chance to split the Maori vote at the November election, with leader Phil Goff saying the "family feud" had detracted from the real issues facing Maori.

Labour was last night set to rubber-stamp the decision to stand its candidate Kelvin Davis in the by-election, making it a three-way fight.

Mr Harawira said he had so far resisted "massive pressure" for his party to contest the Maori seats, but the Maori Party's decision to stand against him had made their agreement "effectively redundant".

"I have resisted the temptation because I believe it is important to stand behind a promise you make," he said.

"Whether Mana will now offer a strong candidate in every Maori electorate at the general election will be a matter we will determine after the by-election."

Mr Harawira last week said his party had not approached anyone to stand in any electorates against Maori Party MPs.

"However if they chose to break the agreement and the deal is off, then the deal is off, and at that point I will make my decision, as indeed the party will," he said.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said his party's decision to contest the by-election did not violate the agreement with Mr Harawira.

"You've got to see it beside the decision that he's made to have a by-election, because that violates the agreement straight away, it makes it null and void," he said.

He was unconcerned about the Mana Party splitting the vote in the electorate.

"We are a Maori party. They are not a Maori party, they seem to represent the unions and various other groups.

"We are very straight up, we've always said this -- we're not right, we're not left, we're Maori. And we'll stay with that."

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said Mr Harawira was most likely to split the Green and Labour votes, "because what he is purporting to do is to represent the interests of the left".

National has ruled out standing in the by-election.

Labour leader Phil Goff  said public sparring between the Maori Party and Mr Harawira had detracted from the real issues facing Maori such as high unemployment, the cost of living and asset sales.

"This is a family feud between the Maori Party and the breakaway group, but neither of those parties have focussed on the issues that are worrying Maori people."

Mr Goff said Labour's candidate, Kelvin Davis, could win if it decided to contest the by-election.

"It would be good to give people a real choice in the electorate."

Mr Goff said the by-election was an "expensive stunt", but Labour had enough funds to fight it.

A by-election would cost $500,000 to run and would be held close to the general election.

NZPA
Tue, 10 May 2011
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Battle over Maori seats looms as rival parties spar
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