The Mana Movement has effectively ceased to exist as an independent party as it turns all its resources over to the Māori Party. But in a strange twist, Mana could still be on the ballot.
One of the most decisive political rifts over the last decade has finally come to an end with Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira formally endorsing the Māori Party for both the party vote and in each Māori electorate.
Harawira’s split from the Māori Party in 2011, and subsequent formation of the Mana Movement, led to a brutal fight between the two main kaupapa Māori parties of New Zealand. Competition between the two parties led to splits in the party vote and Māori electorates at the 2011 and 2014 elections, as well as in the 2013 Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election which allowed Labour to regain a position of dominance over the space.
In 2017, there was somewhat of a truce as the two parties agreed they wouldn’t directly compete against each other in the Māori electorates. However after that election, both parties ended up bundled out of parliament.
Now the Mana Movement’s social media channels and mailing lists have been turned over to the Māori Party to use and many Mana activists have swung in behind the campaigns of Māori Party MPs. The Facebook pages of both parties have frequently gone live with the same videos.
In a live-streamed conversation between Harawira and Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere, the former confirmed that Mana would not be standing any candidates in the 2020 election.
“We’ve agreed to make the Mana Movement pages and databases available so that the Māori Party can use them for whatever they wish to. There’s a desperate need for a kaupapa Māori party in parliament.”
He added that he wished it was Mana, but didn’t mind if it was the Māori Party instead. “We’ll be supporting whoever the Māori Party candidates are up and down the country, and I’ll be recommending that to as many of our members as possible,” he said.
For Harawira, the key concern for this election is making sure that Māori electorates are won by candidates who aren’t part of Pākehā-led parties.
However, the Mana Movement could still be on the ballot for the party vote as they remain registered with the Electoral Commission. A spokesperson for the commission confirmed that there had been no application to deregister made to date, nor had the party made an application for a broadcasting allocation. Repeated attempts to contact Harawira on these points have been unsuccessful.
In a subsequent interview, Tamihere welcomed the endorsement saying it brought two political factions back together. “A lot of people felt disenchanted by the split between Mana and Māori. There were activists that went with Mana, and now they’re all back supporting the party.”
Tamihere said the reunification could have a big impact on the specific Māori electorate races, which can often play out very differently to the wider election. “We’re quite emboldened by the new sense of energy coming in.”
As for Tamihere’s own race in Tāmaki Makaurau, he says he’s under no illusions about the difficulty of winning the seat. But he’s hoping that Labour Party voters – who he used to represent in parliament – will split their vote.
“To suggest that it’s not going to be a tough election, you’d be out for lunch on that, right? But what I’m happy about [is] you can sense a shift on the ground in the electorate. This generation’s Bastion Point or Springbok Tour was Ihumātao, so there is an awakening.”
As a strategy, Tamihere is looking to increase turnout noting that just half of all registered voters in the electorate tend to actually cast a vote. “If we can get 5-10% of the new vote out, it could be a game changer,” he said.
The Labour Party currently hold all seven Māori electorates, after its candidates put their careers on the line and removed themselves from the party list in 2017. They’ll all be back on the list in 2020.