NZ Election 2020: John Tamihere picks unlikely preferred coalition partner for Māori Party

If the Māori Party manages to hold the balance of power after the election, co-leader John Tamihere says their ideal coalition partner wouldn't be Labour or National.

"In terms of policy settings, we're closest with TOP," he told The AM Show on Thursday. "They've got some outstanding ideas."

The problem for Tamihere is both his party and TOP are polling at just 1 percent - while the Māori Party has a decent chance of scraping back into Parliament by winning a seat, that's highly unlikely for TOP.

His old party Labour would be Tamihere's second choice, followed by the Greens.

TVNZ's VoteCompass tool places the Māori Party between TOP and the Greens - they're about as economically left-wing as the Greens and as socially progressive as TOP, but not as progressive as the Greens. 

Where the parties sit, according to TVNZ's Vote Compass.
Where the parties sit, according to TVNZ's Vote Compass. Photo credit: TVNZ

On Wednesday night, Māori Party Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidate Heather Te Au-Skipworth said they definitely wouldn't follow in the footsteps of former leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia and prop up a National-led Government.

"They are racist, so we won't be going with them," she said during a debate hosted by Māori current affairs show The Hui.

Tamihere said the present leadership was the problem, doubting Judith Collins would even consider giving the Māori Party a call after October 17. 

"Crusher doesn't like us."

The minor parties are struggling this election campaign. Since New Zealand switched to MMP in the mid-1990s, no party has ever achieved an outright majority. Labour is polling well enough to achieve it this time, while the two biggest minor parties - ACT and the Greens - are in danger of falling below the 5 percent threshold, potentially bundling them out of Parliament.

The smaller minor parties are struggling to get more than 1 or 2 percent. Tamihere blames COVID-19, saying voters have flocked to Labour - partly for running one of the world's most successful responses to the pandemic, but also the amount of airtime Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has commanded.

"Third parties are struggling in this election, it's unprecedented. Jacinda's done a very good job in managing the country through the pandemic and she's been the source of all truth for 30 weeks, you know - every day, 1pm, nothing but the truth... and she's got an outstanding money printing machine behind her as well."

John Tamihere.
John Tamihere. Photo credit: The AM Show

Tamihere was once a Cabinet member in a Labour-led Government. He said Labour has long been the natural political home for Māori, so it's not surprising. 

"I am a product of my grandfather bequeathing me and his grandchildren to the labour movement of Michael Joseph Savage. That DNA is wired hard into Māori - in the old days there were only two tribes that went to war - National and Labour. 

"When MMP came along, we're just transitioning now into the opportunity that the Greens seized on really early. We're building a constant, enduring Māori political movement because we have to."