Harawira: Maori Party's 'no deal' disappoints
DANYA LEVY AND KATE CHAPMAN
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says he's disappointed but not surprised by the Maori Party's refusal to enter a deal for the parties not to stand against each other at this year's general election.
Representatives from both parties met in Rotorua last week in an attempt to heal a rift which has been growing since Harawira quit the Maori Party in February over its support of the National-led government.
Mana would now look to stand candidates in the other Maori seats, Harawira said.
"I offered the olive branch once again only to have it snatched from my hand by the leaders of the Maori Party and tossed into the dirt a second time."
Mana supporters wanted to work together but the Maori Party leadership has again refused to listen to the people, Harawira said.
"I'm going on a national Mana tour over the next few weeks to talk to the members about which seats they think we should be standing in, both Maori and General, and who would be the best candidates."
The rift between Harawira and the Maori Party culminated with name-calling and heckling from both sides during last month's Tai Tokerau by-election campaign before the incumbent winner, Harawira extended an olive branch to meet and put the parties' differences between them before November's election.
The issue was discussed by the Maori Party's national council in Huntly at the weekend. It later issued a statement saying "no deal".
President Pem Bird said there was a strong message from the party's membership that it should remain loyal to the people of Tai Tokerau by continuing to build its presence in the electorate.
"We had a large contingent from Te Tai Tokerau with us at the hui... Our brothers and sisters of Te Tai Tokerau led us to an emphatic conclusion that we would not sacrifice their seat for what might be seen as political opportunism and expediency.
"Basically the message we received loud and clear, was no deal."
Mana Party representative Willie Jackson said the decision was disappointing.
"Mana is in a very good position," he told Radio New Zealand. "It's not Mana who needed the deal. It's the Maori Party."
Mana was assured of holding the seat of Tai Tokerau after the election, Jackson said. "It's the Maori Party who are very vulnerable now, particularly in Auckland and in the southern Maori seats.
"Unfortunately the Maori Party has left themselves open to attack from the Labour Party and whoever Mana puts up."
Standing against each other in the Maori seats could split the Maori vote and opens the door for Labour to retake some of the five seats it has lost to the Maori Party since 2005.
Bird said the Maori Party was saying no to two proposals put up by the Mana Party but not to possibly working together in the future.
"There could well be that something else comes up in the meantime," he told Radio New Zealand. "We're not closing the door on any relationship."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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