There can have been fewer link-ups in New Zealand politics more cynical and crassly opportunistic than the one just formed between Hone Harawira's Mana Party and the Internet Party, masterminded and financed by the internet developer Kim Dotcom. There is not the shadow of any principle involved in it.
OPINION: Before he arrived in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom's public image was of a high-living, luxury-loving party animal. For all his technical skills, there is not the slightest evidence that either now or in the past he has had a serious political thought in his head.
It is almost certain his only contact with the poor and dispossessed whose interests Harawira purports to represent would have been as employees. Indeed he may be a little startled to find that he is financing the far-left Laila Harre, the newly announced leader of the Internet Party.
As for the internet issues the Internet Party is supposedly concerned about, if Harawira and Mana had any particular interest in them before Kim Dotcom and his money came on the scene they kept very quiet about them.
It is, in other words, a marriage of convenience. It gives Harawira and Mana access to a pile of cash that will enable him to fossick for the party vote outside its own Far North bailiwick. That pile of cash may also help him achieve his aim of getting rid of the present National-led Government.
For Harre and the Internet Party, it holds the promise that if Harawira or any other Mana candidate wins an electorate seat they will coat-tail on it into Parliament. Harre's own attempts to do so over the past decade alone have been spectacularly unsuccessful.
This alliance has sprung from the desire of Harawira and Dotcom to get rid of Prime Minister John Key, although they each have their own very different, even incompatible, reasons. But dislike of Key, however visceral, is not a policy, much less one of principle. It is easy to see why Sue Bradford, who is nothing if not a woman of principle, choked on the arrangement.
Neither party to this marriage is awfully confident about its longevity. The agreement solemnising it provides an escape clause before the election and also provides for it to remain in force only until at least six weeks after polling day.
A weakness of the mixed-member proportional system of voting is its potential to give disproportionate power to minor parties. The 5 per cent threshold by itself would provide some safeguard against that but under the New Zealand MMP system it is compromised by the provision that allows a party that wins a constituency seat to gain seats according to the proportion of the party vote.
The sordid deal between Mana-Internet will try to exploit that weakness. The ultimate composition of the next New Zealand government may wind up in the hands of a fringe collaboration bankrolled by a German fugitive from American justice. New Zealand politics should be better than that, surely.
- The Press