The Maori Party is now keeping mum on a battle for its leadership that is hanging over Ratana Church celebrations.
A three-way contest for the leadership came to the fore at Ratana Pa, near Whanganui yesterday, with current co-leader Pita Sharples, MP Te Ururoa Flavell, and Mana leader Hone Harawira all throwing their hats in the ring.
The party's governing council held an urgent meeting last night to discuss the leadership succession, which is not written into the party's constitution and has never previously been an issue since its formation in 2004.
"There will be no immediate change in leadership. Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples will continue as co-leaders," Maori Party president Pem Bird said in a statement after the meeting.
Today, Mr Flavell and Mr Bird would not speak to media.
However, co-leader Ms Turia, who will retire at the 2014 election and is urging Dr Sharples to follow suit, says the leadership battle is a good sign for the party.
“As political movements we need to be brave enough and courageous enough to talk these issues through and to reach a conclusion that is about the people,” she says.
“We have got people who want to stand, who have a lot of skill, a lot of ability, a lot of vision, and who are very committed to a way forward for all of us in this country.”
Ms Turia declined to say who her preferred leadership candidate was, but a day earlier she had rubbished Mr Harawira's bid for it, saying the party represents the people and won't be run as a dictatorship.
She says the party's council will meet in six to eight weeks for further discussions over a succession plan, and it's likely Maori around the country will be consulted on the next leader.
"You don't decide the issues urgently. They are significant and serious issues and we want to give it the gravitas it requires."
Labour leader David Shearer was welcomed onto Ratana Marae about midday and told media the cracks in the Maori Party are bad news for the government's slim parliamentary majority.
Labour is hopeful of renewing historic ties with Ratana and reclaiming the Maori Party's three electorate seats at next year's election.