The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election result is bad news for the Maori Party. That's good news for Winston Peters and New Zealand First.

Hot off the press, here's my take on the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election result - with a stronger than usual warning that I don't necessarily know what I am talking about.

First, Labour has won, so any excited media speculation that the result could bring on a leadership change will have to be warehoused until the next available opportunity. Which will no doubt eventuate in a fortnight or so ... I'm picking July 8, with the birth of the next new moon.

Second, final turnout is under 40% of enrolled voters. The only people who bothered to cast a vote were the most motivated/most loyal individuals in one particular part of the country, in which things like individual personalities, legacy effects and tribal loyalties played an important part. Which makes extrapolating this result into more general lessons for New Zealand's politics a mug's game.

Third, in spite of the above warning and so proving my muggishness, this is a bad result for the Maori Party. They ran the only candidate who had been before the electorate before - so if any of the individuals seeking election had a name recognition advantage (beyond Te Hāmua Nikora's status as an entertainer, that is), it would be Na Raihana. Nevertheless, not only did he come third in the contest, but his share of the total vote actually dropped from where it was 18 months ago (that's taking into account the lower turnout, of course).

In 2011, the electorate votes for the Labour, Maori Party and Mana candidates in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti were:

  • Parakuria Horomia (Labour) = 10,558
  • Na Raihana (Maori) = 4017
  • Tawhai McClutchie (Mana) = 2,484

At that election, there were 18,319 votes cast.

This time around, with about 12,000 votes cast, the totals for the Labour, Mana and Maori Party candidates were:

  • Meka Whaitiri (Labour) = 4,368
  • Te Hāmua Nikora (Mana) = 2,607
  • Na Rongowhakaata Raihana (Maori) = 2,104

What that suggests to me is that the "protest" or "anti-establishment" vote is flowing to Mana, while the "pragmatic" or "work inside the system" vote is pretty much staying with Labour. And so the Maori Party are being frozen in the middle - which spells bad news come 2014. Because not only is it looking increasingly unlikely that there will be another Maori seat for them to contest at that election, but if they can't make headway in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti in a "blank-slate" situation where they run the only established candidate, then they stand little chance of winning any of the four seats held by Labour and Mana. In fact, you'd have to wonder how secure its position is in the three seats it currently holds.

Which is perhaps the most interesting issue to come out of this result. Because the pundit (and Pundit) consensus is that National has had a very good week both policy wise (having cleverly snookered Labour on Auckland transport issues) and in terms of the electoral horse race (based on the over-importance that the NZ Herald's commentariat have to attach to the result of their own newspaper's opinion poll). Yet that party still faces a big, big problem. Popular as it may remain - and the poll-of-polls doesn't have it anywhere near the Herald's 48.8% - it's sitting out in an increasingly lonely place.

Come 2014, ACT and UnitedFuture (assuming it is resurrected) look to be one-MP vehicles (at best) ... and those MPs may well occupy "overhang" seats if their parties can't clear about 0.4% in the polls. And if the Maori Party really is on the skids, as this by-election result suggests, then its ability to rejoin National in government post 2014 is similarly questionable.

Which means that National's path to a third term looks more and more like passing through the Kingdom of Winston.

Comments (7)

by stuart munro on June 30, 2013
stuart munro

National's good week is going to cost them dearly if they don't break ground on those Auckland  trainspot  transport promises. There was this promise not to lift GST, and to create 170 000 jobs, or to catch up with Australia, to name a few. And the public are going to trust in the flakey salesman who broke those promises to deliver these new ones, 7 years late, when he's not even in government? I don't think so.

Winston has indeed never looked so much like Richard Neville, and (unless this is all a clever piece of viral marketing by Whitakkers) we may yet live to see the interesting spectacle of Key prostrate upon Winston's carpet. In spite of his sometime preference for the right, I am sure National's predation of ACT and the Maori party has not escaped the notice of the member for Tauranga.

by Andrew Geddis on June 30, 2013
Andrew Geddis

I am sure National's predation of ACT and the Maori party has not escaped the notice of the member for Tauranga.

Winston Peters has not been the member for Tauranga since 2005. He didn't even run in the seat in 2011 (Brendan Horan did). So I think it's time for a new nickname.

by Nick Gibbs on June 30, 2013
Nick Gibbs

I really don't think too much can be read into yesterday's result. But watching John Key having to court Winston in a year's time would be like sitting through one of those 'live on TV' wedding proposals that fails epically. It's ghastly but you just can't look away. More to the point any bringing Winston in from the cold is going to hurt National in the polls.

by stuart munro on June 30, 2013
stuart munro

True. There's a lot to summarise in a few syllables though. When all is said and Dunne  his star has risen. Until he finds a way to distinguish the erosion of sovereignty through poorly regulated investment from the many virtues of Asian migrants he will remain a difficult figure. Kipling once wrote about a 'grey shepherd'. That might cover both his constituency and his role as apex predator.

by Andrew Geddis on June 30, 2013
Andrew Geddis

I really don't think too much can be read into yesterday's result.

I agree. But I have a blog post to write. And if people held back their speculation until it had a firm basis, how would the internet work?

But watching John Key having to court Winston in a year's time would be like sitting through one of those 'live on TV' wedding proposals that fails epically.

It would also make reading Kiwiblog lots of fun!

More to the point any bringing Winston in from the cold is going to hurt National in the polls.

I suspect the message from National will be, "while we won't rule anyone out this time, we'd prefer not to have to govern with NZ First." But, if once the votes are cast and counted, they have to talk ... well, the votes are cast and counted.

Also, what choice does a National-leaning voter who doesn't like the idea of NZ First in power really have? Is the prospect of a Labour/Greens arrangement with NZ First supporting it preferable?

by Nick Gibbs on June 30, 2013
Nick Gibbs

But, if once the votes are cast and counted, they have to talk ... well, the votes are cast and counted.

Sure, but as soon as there's "trouble at mill", and with Winston there will be, it'll be the night of long knives in the National caucus.

Which will make Kiwiblog exceptional reading.

 

by Matthew Percival on July 01, 2013
Matthew Percival

Also, what choice does a National-leaning voter who doesn't like the idea of NZ First in power really have? Is the prospect of a Labour/Greens arrangement with NZ First supporting it preferable?


I suspect a Labour/NZ First arrangements with the Greens supporting is a more likely scenario regardless of the # of seats each party brings to the table. If NZ First holds the balance of power I don't see them taking a back seat role to the Greens, or anyone for that matter.

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