The Maori Party has indicated it is positioning itself for a possible support deal with National after the November 8 election.
Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he was no longer sure if he trusted Prime Minister Helen Clark, and said she was nearing the end of her time.
"She has been a great leader; she has done great things for the country," Dr Sharples said in an interview recorded yesterday for TVNZ 7. "But maybe she is nearing the end of her time."
Recent events in Parliament showed Miss Clark was clinging to power, he said.
"She is appearing quite desperate ... she is behaving like someone who is really, really desperate to get back into Parliament at any cost."
Dr Sharples' outburst was his second attack on Labour in as many days. On Wednesday, he inflamed the row over Parliament's censure of NZ First leader Winston Peters by accusing Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia of trying to bully the Maori Party into supporting Mr Peters.
The Maori Party is regarded as a possible kingmaker in the government-building negotiations that are expected to follow the election, with neither Labour nor National likely to gain enough votes to be able to govern alone.
Dr Sharples said the Maori Party would not allow itself to get "hung up" on matters such as retaining the Maori seats, which National has pledged to abolish eventually.
Treaty of Waitangi matters, retaining the Maori seats and the repeal of the foreshore and seabed legislation were "deep-structure policies" for the party.
They were all bottom-line, "but not necessarily a barrier to aligning ourselves with any other group for progress".
"The real need right now is health, education and those sorts of things amongst our people," Dr Sharples said.
"Poverty for many, housing, that sort of stuff, and that is where we want to find some sort of advantage. If we do try to go into some sort of arrangement with another group that will give us an advantage to do those things, then we may well end up in a relationship."
Dr Sharples said other traditional Maori Party concerns were "on the list" of things to do in the longer term. "There is so much to do."
The Maori Party would be interested in a support arrangement similar to that forged between Labour and NZ First, in which Mr Peters became a minister outside the Cabinet.
"What I'm saying is we won't be rushing into a coalition in which we could be drowned," Dr Sharples said.
"What is the use of being in a coalition if you've got no power ... I want to have some power over money and resources."
- The Dominion Post
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