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Māori Party resurgence sign of 'a lot of dissatisfaction' with Labour - expert

A politics academic says the resurgence of support for the Māori’s Party in the Māori electorates is a sign that tangata whenua feel “a lot of dissatisfaction” with Labour. 

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Victoria University’s Maria Bargh says the close results in the Māori seats signals dissatisfaction. Source: 1 NEWS

Associate Professor Maria Bargh at Victoria University’s School of Māori Studies told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the Māori Party’s election result was “astonishing” despite the “Labour landslide” seen around the country. 

“Across all electorates, there’s about a 20 per cent increase in the party vote to Labour,” she said.

“In these Māori electorates where things have come close, there’s actually a lot of dissatisfaction if you add in that 20 per cent there.”

With the Māori Party explicitly campaigning for only electorate votes, its candidate Rawiri Waititi is currently ahead of incumbent Labour MP Tamati Coffey by 415 votes in the Waiariki electorate.

Māori Party co-leaders John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer also came within about 1000 votes of winning Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauāuru respectively. 

Bargh said the election results also reflected a successful strategic campaign by the Māori Party. 

Even if Coffey wins once the special votes are counted, Bargh said “he’ll still be wanting to ask why this full [Labour] landslide didn’t occur in Waiariki”. 

“I think they haven’t seen that kind of Treaty partnership that they may be after reflected in some of the Covid recovery plan and other Labour practices.”

If Waititi ended up losing, the Māori Party would still be looking toward 2023, she said.

She said the resurgence in support for the Māori Party could also be because iwi increasingly took leadership in their communities through the Covid-19 pandemic, and people now wanted that reflected in Parliament. 

There was also an opportunity for co-operation between Waititi and Coffey if the Māori Party ended up winning Waiariki and Coffey entered Parliament through Labour’s list, Bargh said.

She also suggested an agreement between the Māori Party and Labour as a “nod towards Treaty obligations”. 

Coffey said on election night he wouldn’t concede until the special votes were counted. In the last election, he gained more than 400 votes through the specials. 

Coffey won Waiariki in 2017 from the Māori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell, who had held the seat for more than a decade.