Indisputably, the InternetMANA alliance has achieved what it set out to do: shake up NZ’s political landscape and engage and enrage the disaffected (predominantly youth). It’s packed town halls throughout the country and has already encountered a fair share of controversiality. But there is some confusion as to who leads InternetMANA.
Formally, the leader of the InternetMANA Party is Hone Harawira, as set out in the formal agreement between the parties.
But some confusion exists both explicitly and implicitly. For instance, some comments made to myself and others I’ve seen on social networks have noted Laila Harre as InternetMANA Party Leader, mostly due to conflating her role as leader of the Internet Party with InternetMANA leadership. But also because second to Kim Dotcom, Harre has become the face of InternetMANA. An example is the allegations this week wielded against InternetMANA because of the Fuck John Key chant used as a political advertisement for InternetMANA and the burning of the John Key effigy that was alleged to be at least unofficially related to the InternetMANA campaign. It was Harre who fronted the media, not Harawira, the leader who you’d naturally assume to do so.
Further confusion exists with the prominent position of party Visionary Kim Dotcom, who appears at most meetings and has become an integral part of that core leadership machine. Interestingly, the idea of dropping Dotcom as the face of the Internet Party was raised in their ‘policy incubator’ (through Loomio a fabulous idea and tool that I hope other parties pick up on, and that the New Economics Party have used for some time already).
It’s unsurprising that some confusion arises, since it is a particularly novel arrangement that can make it difficult to decipher where leadership actually resides.
Only time will tell whether this becomes a sore spot for Harawira, because as Tariana Turia recently relayed on RadioLive, Harawira left the Māori Party due to his desire for leadership which was not forthcoming at the time. Recalling also that when Harre was publicly announced as Internet Party Leader, Harawira interjected that he was still the Leader of InternetMANA.
However, Harawira recently commented that the partnership with Harre and InternetMANA was working well, and that he could foresee it progressing beyond the election. The InternetMANA alliance will be up for re-negotiation 6 weeks post-election, at which time the parties decide if they remain in an alliance or retain their separate identities.
If the alliance remains, there will need to be a decision as to who becomes the leader. This will likely be resolved through a co-leadership arrangement like the Greens and the Māori Party. So where does that leave Annette Sykes?
Sykes was MANA president and has since MANA’s inception operated as Harawira’s second in command. She has and continues to work tirelessly for the party and for her electorate while also holding down her role as Senior Partner at Aurere Law.
Harre was handpicked and plucked from the Green Party policy team, given a role as (unelected) Leader, paid an MP’s salary, given a wardrobe allowance and many InternetMANA public speaking roles. Sykes has taken this backstep in the hierarchy in her stride without a hint of animosity. But if a co-leadership comes up for election, will Sykes contest it? If so, she has been ferocious in her campaign for the Waiariki electorate, only time will tell if she will contest party leadership as fiercely (if or when it becomes an option) or if she’ll be content to remain as Harre’s subordinate.
Update: I’d previously written that Annette Sykes was the current President of MANA. It has been brought to my attention that she was succeeded recently by Lisa McNab.