By Ally Mullord
Otago University Political Commentator Bryce Edwards says the Mana Party will need to brand themselves as a left-wing party and not a purely Maori one in order to succeed at the November election.
The Mana Party has confirmed that it will contest all the Maori seats under the guidance of leader Hone Harawira and co-leaders Annette Sykes and John Minto.
Mr Edwards says the two parties clashing over the Maori seats “was always inevitable… it is a battle to the death now, and I think the Mana Party have the upper hand”.
However he says Labour could benefit the most from Mana and the Maori Party splitting the vote in the Maori electorates, and “could pick up just about all the rest of the seats”.
Bringing in veteran activists Annette Sykes and John Minto as Mana Party vice-presidents is “quite a smart move” and will be good for the health of the party, Mr Edwards says.
“Mana’s really been a one-man band, and to have real credibility as a minor party they need to expand beyond that,” he says.
“[John Minto and Annette Sykes] are more likely to keep a solid ballast for the Mana Party, and they’re also strong individuals so they’ll ensure that Harawira can’t dominate.”
Mr Edwards says the party will need “a strong brand” in order to succeed at the elections, and a lack of clarity around their ideology could be the party’s main problem.
“There’s still a strong sense of ideological ambiguity about the Mana Party - I think there’s a bit of confusion,” he says.
“Most people in the public probably think it’s a Maori party because we see Hone Harawira standing up and he personifies the party, but there’s all these other strong individuals… they’re pushing him to the left, but it’s still a bit unclear.
“I think if they’re going to have success they need to be more of a left-wing party, because they need Pakeha votes - they can’t really just survive and grow as a niche Maori party.”
Watch the video for the full interview