If Maori Party agree, and I’m almost certain they would, the party would expect some heavy concessions from National. The Maori Party have had to, as the minor partner in the relationship, bear the consequences of heavy compromise. However, should the above situation eventuate the Maori Party will be in a stronger position to exact major gains.
I expect the Maori Party to demand retention of their ministerial positions and a guarantee Tariana Turia’s portfolios will pass to Te Ururoa Flavell if or when she stands down. An expansion of Whanau Ora will be the only bottom line. The Maori Party campaign revolved almost exclusively on Whanau Ora and the flow on effects the policy will have on “strengthening the whanau” and addressing problems like poverty. Whanau Ora is inclusive of a range of Maori Party policies like the Marae Hubs idea too. I expect the Maori Party to push for universal access to te reo classes in high schools. Some of the more low key policies which will be a Maori Party priority are establishing a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Treaty, reviewing Te Puni Kokiri and a commitment to implementing the recommendations of the constitutional review (given Bill English is heading the review with Sharples I expect concrete action to be taken anyway). On the subject of the constitutional review this is one of the primary reasons the Maori Party will hesitate to go with Labour – the Maori Party have a number of ongoing projects with National (both visible i.e. the review and behind the scenes with Whanau Ora and Maori education).
Asset sales will not, as both leaders have said, be a deal breaker. The Maori Party opposition to asset sales is hollow. They oppose the sales, but should they go ahead they will support iwi access. Some on the left have hoped, should the above situation eventuate, that the Maori Party block asset sales. This won’t happen. Asset sales will be a bottom line for John Key and the Maori Party will accept this when Key agrees to give preferential access to New Zealanders and New Zealand bodies (iwi, Kiwisaver schemes etc). Key came under increasing pressure in the last week of the campaign to ensure assets will stay in New Zealand hands and I don’t expect Labour and New Zealand First to allow that pressure to ease. Key will not just give preferential access to iwi. He cannot, for the sake of the ‘separatist’ vote, allow New Zealand First to cultivate the perception that National are giving Maori special treatment. However, the electorate has, I think, moved on from the separatism issue. At least the issue doesn’t hold as much salience anymore thanks to the, in Pakeha eyes, reasonable behaviour of the Maori Party and John Key’s symbolic olive branch in 2008. Giving NZders the right of pre-emption if you will satisfies both sides really. Firstly, the assets are kept in New Zealand hands (satisfying a plank where National is weak). Secondly, National will placate a powerful and increasingly friendly bloc – iwi. If National align with iwi interests I don’t doubt that iwi will begin throwing themselves behind the Tories. Certainly Labour and the Green’s platforms may hurt iwi. For example, no asset sales and water charges (iwi and countless Maori land trusts run farms with irrigation etc).
Iwi will also help determine who the Maori Party go with. The Maori Party will, and rightfully so, consult the people. However, the only people to turn up will be conservative, mainly rural Maori with connections to their Marae and Runanga. The sort of Maori who are more likely to support National and whatever is good for the Runanga. The Maori Party is no longer a party where all Maori will flock (like they were in 2005 and 2008). The Maori Party have fractured their base. Some of whom have fled to Mana while others have returned to Labour. The Green’s seem to be benefiting too.
I’m going to break with the orthodox here and suggest that another term with National may not be a death sentence. In fact, if the Maori Party play it right they could hold steady. Over the past term the Maori Party have carved out a niche. They no longer play to all Maori, but the emerging Maori middle class. A middle class that sees Maori rights as paramount, but recognise that they – as in the Maori middle class – need to breach the power structures and insert themselves where they can make change, read the Cabinet table, and this approach takes compromise. They got to the middle, and in some cases the top, by sacrificing things like their cultural values in the workplace and they analogise this to government. Often the Maori middle class comes from existing iwi power structures. Maori who were never as disenfranchised as, if I can use this metaphor, the Jake Hekes of the Maori world. I’ve said this time and again that the Maori Party and the Mana Party represent the divide between the haves and the have nots in the Maori world. The haves are iwi with their settlements and emerging middle class. The have nots are the mainly urban and some rural Maori without trusts, without settlements and sometimes without Runanga. Both groups, although working towards the same goal, embody different approaches. The have nots, who are perhaps naïve in the ways of the world, want to see rapid change and uncompromising politics. The have nots are, in my opinion, probably sick of seeing their whanaunga getting ahead well they are stubbornly stuck at the bottom. They see the way to advancement as tearing down the walls. The haves are a bit more street wise about it. They know how to manipulate the Pakeha game and will do so. Working for gradual change from the inside. Some Maori probably resent the fact that other Maori are engaging like that, but that’s an approach I support (even though I don’t support the Maori Party per se).
Anyway, I’m heading way off track here. The second niche the Maori Party have carved are conservative Maori. Maori are, in my opinion anyway, naturally conservative. Not always politically, but socially. Also on many Marae I think conservatism tends to reign. For example, a lot of Marae like to hold steadfast, and fair enough, to old traditions rather than letting those traditions change like cultures eventually do.
Back to the original topic. Assuming the Maori Party play to these groups and stem anymore bleed then they will not die. If the Maori Party can give practical effect to the line that it’s better to be at the table then survival beyond 2014 will be likely. Giving effect to this will involve tangible policy wins and a perception that the Maori Party are negating the worst effects of the global economic crisis. Of course, much, much easier said than done. If the Maori Party position themselves as a counter balance against National then the above groups will certainly see the value in keeping them around. The only situation where the Maori Party can expect to claim the counterbalance title though is if they stop asset sales, but as I said I doubt that’ll happen. For the counterbalance narrative to work the Maori Party need to stop just one, for lack of a better term, big bang nutcase policy e.g. asset sales. When Tariana abdicates her throne the Maori Party could solve their succession issue quiet easily and, thus, secure their post-2014 future too; they could put up Rahui Katene in Te Tai Hauauru. Though I don’t think she has whakapapa connection to the area which would count against her.
I didn’t intend to write anywhere near this much, so I’ll conclude essay style. The Maori Party will almost certainly renew their relationship with National. The Maori Party will expect heavier policy concessions this time around with Whanau Ora as a bottom line. Asset sales will not be a deal breaker. Iwi will determine who the Maori Party go with and another term with National will not spell death so long as the Maori Party play to their new base – the Maori middle class (of which iwi are a part) and conservative mainly older Maori. I don’t agree with what the Maori Party did last term, but I would feel assured if they were at the table this time around. I think a second term National government with a strong mandate is far scarier than a first term government with a shakier share of the vote. We could be in the shit.