Ratana Minister Kereama Pene has called for the church’s followers to abandon the Labour party. Only three Labour candidates have connections to the church - Soraya Peke-Mason, Rino Tirikatene and Louis Te Kani. None will be elected to Parliament on Labour’s current polling unless they win an electorate seat.
The Ratana church has always been politically active and Ratana members always vote. Labour’s historical monopoly on the Maori seats and the Maori party vote was in no small part due to Ratana support. The church is currently comprised of around 60,000 members. The Labour Party cannot afford to play fast and loose with such a significant electoral bloc. If Labour continues to ignore the church, i.e. take their support for granted, then the party will open the door for Hone Harawira. Hone is already poised to savage the Maori Party vote and if Labour continues to treat the Maori vote with casual disregard they can expect the same. Maori have genuine political alternatives in the Greens, Hone Harawira, the Maori Party and to a lesser extent New Zealand First. Labour cannot act like they still enjoy a monopoly over the Maori vote – the party has to work for it now.
Having said that, Ratana is not as strong as it once was. The church claims some 60,000 members. I tend to think this is an inflated claim. Ratana is certainly a significant electoral force, but only when they vote as a cohort. I do not believe the church votes as one anymore. The faith is no longer as strong and Maori, as a people, are generally more questioning of their leaders. The Ratana faithful will not take the words of their leaders as law and vote accordingly. They will, in most cases, vote as free thinking individuals.
To be honest Pene appears to be having a sook. And an unjustified one at that. Pene ignores the fact that Louisa Wall is currently a sitting MP and will almost certainly return next year. Rino Tirikatene will probably snatch Te Tai Tonga and Louis Te Kani has a chance in Waiariki. So that is one certain (Wall), one probable (Tirikatene) and one possible (Te Kani). Not bad if you ask me.
h/t Imperator Fish