Māori politics: Seats, Alliances, Demise and Choice

Māori politics is in for an incredibly tumultuous ride this election year. Rather than a unified Māori position, the Māori vote is widespread. Many will find a home on the Left under the Internet Mana Party alliance, Greens and Labour. While others will find comfort in the Māori Party and a smaller contingent in National and NZ First.

I wrote last year on how I declined to enrol under the Māori electorates. That post is available here. It is incredibly harsh, and on reflection I do have some regrets about my decision to stay on the general roll and many regrets about some of the things I wrote. I suppose these are the issues when writing a blog, i.e. that new information or changes in circumstances can change perceptions and views. However, I remain unmoved in my position that the Westminster system does not serve the ends of Māori because the state is a necessarily coercive entity.

The Internet-Mana Party

Anyone who follows my social media accounts will know that I’ve been particularly critical of the Internet Mana Party (IMP) temporary merger. Its touted as a strategic alliance. It’s alleged that this move is a ‘game changer’. It’s certainly interesting and there is the possibility that it may have positive effects. There is an equal chance that it wont. The problem isn’t that Mana are taking advantage of a flaw in the MMP system, it is that the seat is being used to prop up a party founded and funded by someone lacking in the mana the Māori seats deserve. Its clear in the idea that the merger is less about Māori and more about its funder, since the MOU agreed between the parties shows this merger disbands after the election so each party can pursue their own policy agendas.

Hone Harawira absolutely deserves to run in Te Tai Tokerau (TTT).  But so to does Kelvin Davis. Both men are extolled by TTT and they provide choice to their electorate.  It is true that non-Māori can also run in those seats, and this illustrates that Dotcom’s connection as founder and funder of the party attempting to coattail in on it is well within the rules but it is not in the spirit of the Māori seats which embody the struggle of our tupuna to obtain and retain representation in a system that works against us.

Trotter on Kelvin Davis

Chris Trotter is propagating the idea that Kelvin Davis is showing dangerous signs of being an authoritarian because he values his principles and the spirit of the Māori seats over being bullied into rolling over for the IMP strategic alliance. Trotter demands that Davis be told to STFU. What even? Old white guy, self-appointed member of the socialist establishment tells highly respected Māori representative to STFU about retaining the mana and integrity of the Māori electorate seats. Tell me again about how these left socialists want a democratic society, but want to limit the choices of those who reside in strategic voting regions? Whose the authoritarian again?

As a left libertarian, the only authoritarians I see are those claiming for the left that unless we listen and vote according to what Trotter and Bradbury tell us then we will be responsible if National win at the election. If we don’t dispose of our principles for strategic purposes then we are basically against progress and for authoritarianism. The irony of that.

On the Māori Party

While Mana and the Greens have a very strong Māori emphasis and incredibly strong and devoted Māori candidates, they are not representative of the Māori voice alone. They are representative of broader struggles that include Māori issues but focus on the gap between the rich and poor and the environment. Important and necessary struggles but not equivalent. Labour also have some very strong and devoted Māori candidates, but again, these candidates are representative of their party membership, and while all these parties have Māori members, they do not act as an independent voice for Māori in parliament. That has been the niche role of the Māori Party. Yes, there is some conflict about their relationship with the National Party.

For ages, I have been arguing against the ‘at the table’ positioning of the Māori Party. This stems from my perception that being at the table was a justification for compromising on so many of the Māori Party values. That the best Māori could hope for was to have a voice at the table. I hadn’t considered that this was the minimum we should hope for, irrespective of who is in government. As I wrote earlier, the Māori struggle is not a left thing. In my ideal world, I envision full self-determination, complete horizontalism and a functioning participatory democracy in a society free of a coercive state and the oppression of poverty. In my practical world, I envision independent Māori voices focused on kaupapa Māori politics, where Māori can begin to operate alongside the system rather than oppressed under it. Both Mana and the Māori Party offer policy in this regard. The Māori Party having a more open line because they are willing to work across the political spectrum if necessary.

IMP & Maōri Party

Some commentators have suggested that if the Internet Mana Party (IMP) successfully persuade Māori en masse to vote for them, the Māori Party may indeed struggle to re-enter parliament. While some of the radicals on the Left (Trotter/Bradbury) are calling this a potential victory, it will (for the reasons outlined above) be a commisserable event for Māori, if it occurs.

I am not suggesting that the Mana Movement are not incredibly dedicated and admirable in their intent to preserve and extend the kaupapa Māori approach. On that, Mana cannot be faulted. Mana seek similar goals, but the path pursued relies on a heavily regimented state, presuming that a state “by the people for the people” is necessarily benevolent while ignoring the coercive reality of nationalist statism. As Max Weber highlights, the state is a “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”.  The territoriality of states is itself the strategic use of a defined geography in which the political institutions attempt to control and influence those within its boundaries, while the notion of boundaries communicates to outsiders that a particular jurisdiction is operational within.

Mana also appears to hold tight to the myth of nationalism, that it is about cultural or historical ties to land and I can see the attraction in thinking nationalism is the path to preserving indigenous connections to land. But nationalism largely developed out of the Westphalian system as a narrative to accentuate differences between ‘citizens and aliens’. It is the result of the militant nation-state. Culture for nationalism is not indigenous culture, it is the imposed colonialist realties that represent the nationalist claims. Nationalism strangles indigeneity, and restricts full participatory democracy, subsequently, endorsing the idea of a global segregation that would be considered deplorable at the inter-state level.

At this election, for Māori and non-Māori alike, each must determine for themselves which path they want to take. I will vote but in doing so I am not conceding that I think the state is a legitimate entity. My bias is clear because I am anti-statist and anti-nationalist, but my views are not for everyone, and should not be taken as judging you for your views if they are different. Māori in particular must not let others decide for us what the best way forward is we should take the time to talk to our friends and whānau and to reflect on those discussions. Whether your decisions are based on bigger picture issues or are more narrowly defined the decision belongs to you and no-one else.


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