Mana-Internet party 'undermines' Maori seats

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:31 27/05/2014
Stuff.co.nz

The Internet Mana party has been launched by Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and Internet Party chief Vikram Kumar.

Hone Harawira and Vikram Kumar
CAMERON BURNELL
POLITICAL ALLIES: Internet Party chief executive leader Vikram Kumar looks at new political ally Hone Harawira, leader of Mana.

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Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the merger of Mana and the Internet Party is "seriously wrong" and undermines the Maori seats.

Mana and the Internet Party confirmed today they would contest this year's election together in a party to be called Internet-Mana.

But the deal has already come at a cost for Mana, with Sue Bradford and another party member resigning. Bradford said "sucking up to German millionaires" was not her vision of the future.

Mana has also been forced into a major concession, giving the second place on the combined list to the leader of the Internet Party meaning it is less likely Mana will get a second of its own members - president Annette Sykes - into Parliament.

A visibly angry Flavell said the merger undermined the Maori seats.

"I'm pretty brassed off to be truthful," he said.

"Those seats were set up for our people, our people have come through hard times to get those seats, and to utilise them to bring somebody in who is questionable about their knowledge about things Maori and indeed Te Tai Tokerau, is a bit of a slap in the face for Maori voters."

The merger undermined the Maori seats which Maori had worked so hard to get and which some people wanted abolished, by "dragging in" a party that had demonstrated little ambition for Maori or understanding of Maoridom.

"This doesn't help in any way shape or form to consolidate the fact that these seats must be retained in New Zealand politics forever," he said.

Flavell said said Mana leader Hone Harawira needed to "look in the mirror" after claiming the Maori Party had sold out to National by joining the government coalition.

There was little in the Mana-Internet agreement for Maori and it was unlikely to attract non-voters as Mana and the Internet Party had claimed, he said.

The agreement between the parties was outlined at a media conference this morning with Harawira and Internet Party chief executive Vikram Kumar, and follows weeks of discussions between the two parties.

The Internet-Mana Party will be led by Harawira who will also be number one on the combined party's list, with the leader of the Internet Party at two.

The next two spots will be allocated to Mana president Annette Sykes and John Minto with the Internet Party to get the next two places, and the parties alternating after that.

The Internet Party leader will be announced on Thursday.

MANA MEMBERS SUPPORT ALLIANCE

Harawira said the alliance had "overwhelming support" from Mana members and he believed Maori in general were behind the move.

"I think what we've done is capture the mood of our younger people to an internet future and we wanted to make sure that we were part of that future," he said.

One of the ways to do that was to "buddy up with an organisation that already understands that world".

Kumar said he was "absolutely delighted" with the agreement.

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"For the Internet Party I think that we are extremely delighted that here is a credible choice that New Zealanders will have in the upcoming general election," he said.

"It's a voice that we hope young New Zealanders will further engage with politics and will turn out to vote for the election, and we can reverse the declining trend of democratic participation in New Zealand and start setting some standards for how politics should be in the future."

Kumar hoped the alliance would lead to increased voter participation, saying the combined party wanted to attract new voters rather than take votes off other left-wing parties.

The deal would see the Internet Party provide the bulk of the financial resources although both men refused to say how much, saying it was still being worked out.

Kumar said the parties shared common goals and denied the Internet Party was buying its way into Parliament.

The Internet Party would stand in 15 electorates though only those in which Mana was not fielding a candidate.

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, the party's founder, funder and "visionary" was not at the announcement today.

Harawira said they had not discussed Dotcom's potential extradition to the US on copyright charges.

"It's not a matter on the table at all," he said.

SUE BRADFORD QUITS

Harawira confirmed two people had resigned from the party as a result of the deal, but said hundreds had signed up.

One of those to quit was former Green Party MP Sue Bradford who has opposed the merger from the start and resigned minutes after the announcement.

"Sucking up to German millionaires is not my vision of the future, and as I've said often enough before I think it's a big mistake," she said.

She had not been involved in the recent discussions once it became clear a merger was likely, saying it was a decision for the party.

"I'm totally aware it's up to the party, it's not up to me, I'm just a member," Bradford said.

"They've made the decision, fair enough, I still support the kaupapa of Mana and I've got a lot of friends in Mana and I wish them well, but there's no way I can continue to be in a party where we are all really just the political plaything of a millionaire internet mogul."

Mana had spent three years of building its reputation and that integrity had now been compromised, she said.

"Mana is risking just being a pawn in Kim Dotcom's games - and he loves game-playing - and I feel really sorry that people have made this decision, but it's their prerogative and so I'm off."

Bradford said other Mana members were also opposed to the merger.

The deal is designed to give both parties a boost ahead of September's election.

Mana benefits from Dotcom's money and know-how while the Internet Party increases its chances of a seat in Parliament on Harawira's coat-tails should he hold his Te Tai Tokerau seat.

Mana also has the activist base to ensure the parties have more support on the ground.

- Stuff

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