Political pre-nup has clues to motivation
Welcome to today's political pub quiz and your questions are on the Internet-Mana party (IMP) tie-up.
Q: Why did Mana leader and Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira prefer the name Mana-Dotcom for the joint party list concoction over its eventual name?
A: Because his main aim with the deal - other than filling the election year coffers - is publicity. And he knows the value of Kim Dotcom and his appeal to the media, as well as young and anti-establishment voters.
Q: How will it affect Mana's chances in Harawira's seat?
A: It probably won't make a lot of difference, but if anything the gains from young and previous non-voters could be offset by those switching to Labour's Kelvin Davis. Some may not see what they have in common with a party set up by a mega-rich immigrant facing deportation charges - and remember Davis was only 1165 behind Harawira at the 2011 election.
Q: The memorandum of understanding between the parties has Harawira top of the list followed by the IMP leader and then two Mana candidates. Does that give Mana the upper hand?
A: Given current polling levels Mana can expect to get either one or two MPs (as long as it wins in Te Tai Tokerau), although in an election campaign with a lot of exposure anything can happen. So at first blush it looks even-handed but given that Annette Sykes could win the Waiariki seat that would effectively push the IMP leader, expected to be Laila Harre, down to three on the list.
Q: It's been called a marriage of convenience. Will it last?
A: It's hard to see it being a long term thing, and in fact the last page of the four page memorandum setting up the IMP outlines how it can be changed or ditched.
But Harre's involvement - and her close links to the Left - makes it look more enduring if it gets over the line.
Q: How can it be ended?
A: Well, the memorandum of understanding reads like a carefully worded pre-nup. Either party can give seven days notice of a change. Otherwise it will remain in force until "at least six weeks after the 2014 general election". Within five weeks of polling day on September 20 - so before the end of October - the parties will meet to review the agreement.
Q: If the election is close and talks are protracted - like the famous NZ First two-way talks in 1996 - it sounds like they could split up before a government is formed?
A: Yep, looks like they are leaving the door open for that.
Q: But they do commit to opposing a National-led government eh?
A: Mostly yes but a little bit no. Given where both are coming from it's hard to see them keeping John Key in power. On the other hand they only commit to "not support the formation or ongoing operation of any government that includes the National Party". Seems they left open the option of abstaining.
Q: Some commentators have said Mana is gold digging. Is it just Dotcom's money they want?
A: The party has said it has enough already for the $25,000 that candidates are allowed to spend in the Maori electorates it is targeting.
His money will help fund the push for nationwide party list votes.
Q: So the IMP will help Mana broaden its appeal beyond Maori voters to the wider electorate?
A: Makes sense.
Q: But wasn't that what Harawira tried to do by bringing Sue Bradford and other activists into the party - and she has quit?
A: Pass. Next question.
Q: Has Mana damaged its integrity - its claim to fight for the poorest in society - by getting into bed with the Internet Party and its rich founder?
A: Mana's leaders, including veteran activist John Minto, say that is not the case. And there is an argument that the "integrity" view is a paternalistic one held by leftist voters who would never vote for Mana anyway. Let's call it the "how dare our tame radicals sell out" syndrome.
Q: So is it a Left-wing party?
A: Well it sure looks that way - and Key is adamant that is the case. Minto says it is a "strategic alliance", not a merger - and given the annulment provisions it may not matter too much. For the record, Harawira does not describe himself as "Left" anyway but there would not be too many people who would argue with Harre's leftwing roots.
Q: Isn't this just a cynical exploitation of the MMP loophole that gets MPs into Parliament even if a party falls short of the 5 per cent threshold provided they win an electorate seat?
A: You've got it. But National is hardly likely to complain. It had the opportunity to dump the "coat-tailing" provision but didn't and will be happy if the rule brings in more ACT or UnitedFuture MPs.
Minto has joked it is "strategic warfare" to ensure no anti-National votes are wasted.
Q: What happened to the moral high ground?
Sorry, your time is up.