Maori Party leadership challenge tipped
The struggle for the Maori Party leadership has heated up again with suggestions a challenge could be made as early as today.
The Maori Party will be discussing its leadership and future plans after attending celebrations on Ratana Pa, near Whanganui, and unconfirmed reports suggest the party's only other MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, could challenge co-leader Pita Sharples for the leadership this afternoon.
And to complicate matters, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira this morning indicated he could be ready to work again with the Maori Party.
Co-leader Tariana Turia announced late last year that she would not be standing again in 2014 but would stay on until the election.
She also suggested fellow co-leader Sharples should follow her lead and retire. He has been toying with the idea since the last election.
But Sharples has been defiant in recent weeks saying he would stay on in Parliament, and as leader, because the people wanted him to.
Meanwhile, Flavell, has been vocal about his desire to become leader.
He has said he would be "comfortable" stepping up if there was an opening.
"It's a little bit difficult in the sense that I would be the only one left and I think it wouldn't help our cause by losing all the MPs," he said.
Flavell said the party would discuss the process for replacing Turia and changes to the party's constitution at Ratana.
"We've got all the things in place but we've got to just nail them to the floor," he said.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is leaving the door open for a return to the Maori Party as its leader, but says there would have to be "some clear baselines" to any discussions.
Harawira this morning said he had been approached by various kaumatua and kuia to come back because of divisions among the leadership.
Co-leader Tariana Turia has said she is stepping down at the next election and has urged her co-leader Pita Sharples to do the same, but he has refused.
"It's nice to be wanted but being the leader of the Maori Party right now is like being the captain of the Titanic just before it smacks into the iceberg," Harawira said.
He quit the party before the 2011 election to set up Mana and held the Tai Tokerau seat at the 2011 election.
"I've been asked by various kaumatua and kuia to come back because of the divisions within the leadership and the fact that the Maori Party seems to be dying but there would need to be some clear baselines to any discussions".
He said Mana's focus was to stand up for the poor and dispossessed but the Maori Party seemed happy to be ministers in a National government.
"Their role as National Party devotees would have to end."
He said the co-leaders were at odds with one another and their on-going spats were destroying the party.
"Tariana is standing down; Pita needs to signal his willingness to work with me to heal the wounds of the past."
Mana was a movement of committed activists willing to step up and fight for the rights of the people, whereas the Maori Party was led by people who seemed old and tired.
"Maoridom deserves the strong and vibrant leadership that Mana can provide."
The Maori Party's membership had fallen from 24,000 when he was in it to just 600 today, he said.
"I think a Mana-Maori union is what Maori people want. I have made the offer in the past and I happily make that offer again in the best interests of the people. I am going to Ratana this week and if the opportunity arises to further these discussions, I would welcome them,' he said.
"The ball is in the Maori Party's court ..."