Sharples to remain leader

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 09:10 24/01/2013

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Pita Sharples is to remain co-leader of the Maori Party for the time being, despite a public challenge from fellow-MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

The Maori Party National Council met late Wednesday night at Whangaehu marae to discuss the party leadership following their attendance at the Ratana celebrations this week.

Earlier Sharples had confirmed Flavell was challenging him for the leadership.

In a late night statement, party president Pem Bird said the party had to first establish a process for selecting the new leadership.

Co-leader Tariana Turia will stand down from Parliament in 2014 and Flavell wants to take over from Pita Sharples, who has vowed to stand again despite calls to retire.

Bird said the party met last night for ''robust discussions''.

No immediate leadership changes were made but the party would hold a meeting in the next few months to decide on leadership and constitutional matters, he said.

''Te Ururoa has signalled that he wishes to be given the opportunity to co-lead the party and so the Māori Party needs to work through constitutional and procedural processes as part of our succession planning.''

Flavell was a ''highly valued MP'', Bird said, adding that the party would be making no further comment on its leadership.

There were reports this morning that Sharples would remain co-leader at least until the 2014 general election.

Last year co-leader Tariana Turia announced she would be stepping down at the 2014 general election.

Yesterday she increased pressure on Sharples to stand aside and said the party should have a ''way forward'' by today.

The leadership of the Maori Party was thrown into the spotlight Wednesday morning when Mana Party Hone Harawira announced he was open to talks to reconnect with his former party as leader.

He claimed members of the Maori Party had approached him around the country keen for him to take over.

''Clearly they're in dire straits right now, their membership has dropped through the floor,'' said Harawira, who quit the Maori Party ahead of the 2011 election.

Sharples appeared to be open to the idea of Harawira returning, saying there was no point in having two Maori parties.

Prime Minister John Key refused to say whether he would continue his relationship with the Maori Party following a merger, but made it clear he had no time for Mr Harawira.

''Hone Harawira's made his position when it comes to the National Party very clear and it's mutual, so there's no love lost there.''

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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