As the results become clearer the Maori Party are not Kingmakers, but they can provide National with a useful buffer and, as a result, "stable government".
The Maori Party are in a strong position. They could even be Kingmakers. If this is the case I expect them to side with National in exchange for an expansion of Whanau Ora, possibly a sweet deal for Iwi re asset sales and a review of the MCA Act. However, they will know this is suicide. They are, after all, two MPs down thanks to their their relationship with National. In terms of relationships, the Maori Party have a successful working relationship with National and also a strong personal relationship with John Key and others. Although the Maori Party maintain good relations with Labour's Maori caucus, the Maori Party don't have any sort of working relationship with them. Labour have also tried to, and in the case of Te Tai Tonga succeeded, in burning the Maori Party. A few things to chew over.
The commentators on Maori TV seem to think a second term with National will hurt the Maori Party. Sandra Lee, correctly i think, states that the Maori Party will want a lot more gains in exchange for their loyalty. That's the only option really. The Maori Party need concrete, visible and easily sold policy wins. The, for example, constitutional review and the UN Dec. on the Rights of Indigenous People are too abstract and remote for many Maori voters. They don't connect to those sorts of policies nor see the relevance in a time where material needs are most pressing. The decade for symbolism has passed. For many Maori, this decade is about getting by the basics.
UPDATE: It appears to me that Pita Sharples is hinting on all channels that the Maori Party will support National. He cites on going projects his party have with National and says asset sales are not a deal breaker. In fact, Sharples restates his hollow opposition to asset sales on TVNZ saying that if it happens the Maori Party will push for iwi access. Interesting.
- Key has just publicly invited the Maori Party back. John Key is gracious and correct with his praise for Phil Goff too. If I can add my own comments, Goff is a great man and a great New Zealander. He deserves nothing but praise, praise and more praise.
- Consensus on Maori TV seems to be the Maori Party face some huge challenges in terms of working with National. Everyone seems to be in agreement that it another three years with National may prove to be the Maori Party's death sentence.