The Maori seats

Morgan Godfrey, at his blog mauistreet.blogpost.co.nz, makes a call on the Maori seats – the incumbents will retain their seats. That means Mana retains Te Tai Tokerau, the Maori Party retains Waiariki, and Labour retains Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Te Tai Tonga.

The remaining two seats are those that will be vacated by Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia. Mr Godfrey predicts that Tamaki Makaurau will fall to Labour, while Te Tai Hauauru is anyone’s guess.

In terms of my Poll of Polls, that largely allies with my assumptions, with Labour taking back Tamaki Makaurau. At this stage, I’m still keeping Te Tai Hauauru in the Maori Party column (at least, until electorate-level polling comes out there that shows something different).

Mr Godfrey’s analysis of the current state of Maori politics is interesting – that after the upheavals of Don Brash’s Orewa speech and the Foreshore & Seabed legislation that resulted in the birth of the Maori party, Maori politics has largely returned to stability. With stability, the Maori electorates return to type – back to Labour:

But the bigger picture is important too: conflict characterised the last decade in Maori politics. Think of Closing the Gaps, Orewa and the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The cruel irony is that the Maori Party has resolved much of that conflict – Whanau Ora has replaced Closing the Gaps, National has abandoned its Maori bashing tactics and the Foreshore and Seabed Act has been repealed and replaced – yet Labour will be the beneficiary.

That’s terribly unfair. But while stability returns to Maori politics, the Maori electorates appear to be reverting to type: Labour-led. Maori politics runs through cycles of uncertainty. When uncertainty and instability arises the Maori electorates turn against Labour. It almost happened with Matiu Rata while it actually happened in the 90s with New Zealand First and the 2000s with the Maori Party. The Young Maori Party was born amidst uncertainty and low confidence among Maori, but when certainty and confidence returned Labour and Ratana swept the Maori seats.

There was a window of opportunity when Mana and the Maori Party might have challenged that cycle. But I think that window has passed. The best they can hope to do is retain what they have.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Tariana Turia’s mana keeps Te Tai Hauauru in Maori Party hands this election, or whether the tide really has swept out on the movement.

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