By Laura McQuillan
The Government's support deal with the Maori Party could be off if Mana leader Hone Harawira is successful in his bid to take over his former party.
Mr Harawira formed Mana after leaving the Maori Party in early 2011 amid a dispute with its leaders over their support for the Government's Marine and Coastal Bill, and he and Prime Minister John Key have repeatedly said they won't work together.
Now Mr Harawira wants to bring Mana and the Maori Party back together and is hinting he might challenge for the Maori Party leadership.
"I've been asked by various kaumatua and kuia to come back because of the divisions within the leadership and the fact that the Maori Party seems to be dying," Mr Harawira said on Wednesday.
His return to the Maori Party could pose an issue for its supply and confidence deal with the Government, which gives it two ministerial roles.
Prime Minister John Key is sticking to his guns over the renegade MP, saying: "I think Hone Harawira has made his position regarding the National Party very clear, and it's mutual. There's no love lost there."
He added that he does not expect a leadership change in the Maori Party before the 2014 election.
"Let's just see how all of these things play out. There's a lot of water to flow under that waka."
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples - who is resisting a push for him to retire in 2014 - says he wants to stay Maori Affairs Minister, regardless of whether he's leader, and Mr Key says that could be a possibility.
"While I decide who is a minister, I also take strong guidance from the leadership of the partner parties," he said.
"If there was a change in the leadership, they may well have a view on the make-up of the ministerial warrants and who should have them."
The Maori Party's other MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, is also making a bid for the leadership, while former Maori Party MP Rahui Katene is understood to be eyeing a leadership role and may stand in co-leader Tariana Turia's Te Tai Hauauru seat when she retires in 2014.