Hone Harawira hitches ride into oblivion
A shock upset in Te Tai Tokerau has seen Hone Harawira lose his electorate seat to the Labour Party's Kelvin Davis and shut the Internet-Mana alliance out of Parliament.
Commentators and Mana insiders said the alliance with the Internet Party was a gamble - boosting the ticket's profile and campaign finances but equally exposing them to criticism - that ultimately backfired.
Davis described Harawira's links to controversial businessman Kim Dotcom as an "Achilles heel" that his campaign for the northern Maori seat had successfully exploited.
Dotcom poured $3m of his own money into the party, while Harawira often hitch-hiked around the electorate. Last night, Dotcom described his brand as "poisoned".
The result which saw Harawira lose the seat he took with a 1165 majority in 2011 cast doubts on the future both the Mana Movement and the Internet-Mana alliance would quickly dissolve.
The significance of the battle for Te Tai Tokerau was cast into sharp relief in the last few days of the campaign, with both Prime Minister John Key and NZ First leader Winston Peters urging their supporters to vote for Labour Party candidate Kelvin Davis to defeat Harawira and shut Internet Mana out of Parliament.
There was substantially more tactical voting than seen in 2011, with Davis receiving more more electorate votes than those cast for his Labour Party.
At the Te Rangi Aniwaniwa school hall near Kaitaia last night, amid thunderstorms and heavy rain, Harawira said tactical voting meant support for his opponent was not genuine.
"That isn't love for Kelvin, it's a hatred of me and a hatred of Mana," he said.
Davis said highlighting the Internet-Mana alliance's ties to controversial former hacker and businessman Dotcom was a key element of his strategy. "His Achilles heel was Dotcom, and so it's played out," he said.
Internet-Mana's future is cloudy, with political commentator Mark Boy describing it as a "Las Vegas wedding" unlikely to last into 2015.
"Hone didn't win, so they're likely to have divorced on Saturday night." he said.
Boyd said the Internet-Mana alliance became a "pariah" party with no leader on the Left willing to publicly contemplate working with them after the election.
He described the Internet Party, formed only this year and bankrolled by Dotcom, as a "flashmob" that would not survive last night's defeat.
Several Mana activists, spoken to by the Sunday Star-Times under condition of anonymity as they were not official spokespeople, said the loss would hurt Mana and prevent them building a national movement. The activists expressed doubts that Harawira would be willing to continue leading Mana from the relative wilderness.
The agreement merging the Internet and Mana party lists calls for a meeting by October 25 for parties to review their alliance, but Internet Party leader Laila Harre disputed suggestions this amounted to a self-destruct clause.
She did, however, say this meeting would lead to changes. "That meeting will cover what form our relationship should take over the next thee years - that will evolve," she said.
The role of Dotcom in the Internet Party would also be part of a separate review, and Harre said his involvement helped boost profile but contributed, on occasion, "distractions".
"With the campaign finished, we will rapidly move towards much clearer public leadership of the party by me," she said.
Harre rejected suggestions the Internet-Mana alliance suffered due to their association with Dotcom. "He's been a magnet for Right-wing attack. But if it hadn't been him, it would have been [Mana party list candidate] John Minto. We were always going to be attacked."
Harre also revealed if not for a strategy bust-up earlier in the year she could well have become a Green Party MP. She had worked with the Greens until jumping ship to lead the start-up Internet Party.
A push earlier in the year by the Greens to run a joint campaign with Labour, billing the pair as an alternative government, led to a "significant falling out" between the two established parties.
"I was extremely concerned about the approach the Greens had taken, and it's taken until now for the two parties to get back on track and solidly give mutual support for a coalition," she said.
The dispute led Harre to join the Internet Party in order to cement an alliance with Mana and prevent votes for the fledgling tag-team being wasted.
Sunday Star Times