Political commentator says National will not win Māori seats but still benefit from standing candidates

A right-leaning political commentator says the National Party will not win Māori seats - but standing candidates in the electorate serve a different, strategic purpose for the Opposition. 

Earlier this year, National leader Christopher Luxon confirmed the party will stand candidates in Māori seats this election for the first time in nearly two decades. 

New Zealand’s electoral system allows voters of Māori descent to have the option of enrolling on a special Māori roll. Their seat votes then go towards the seven Māori electorates instead of the general electorates.

Barrister Liam Hehir, who is also a National Party member, believes those seats will not go to the Opposition.

"They're not going to win those electorates. They're just not," he told Newshub Nation's co-host Simon Shepherd.

Appearing on the programme's political panel on Saturday, Hehir said there are still a couple of key reasons why National can benefit from standing candidates in the Māori electorate despite very slim chances of winning.

"First of all, it's respectful… You're a party that was meant to speak to the whole of the country and if you deliberately don't stand candidates in seats that's like writing them off. It's just wrong.

"The second thing is, from a strategic, more sort of electoral view, you're going pull across a few party votes. It's the party vote that counts.

"Thirdly… The National Party, in theory, has committed to abolishing those seats but only in the same way that the Labour Party is theoretically committed to state socialism - 'it's a theoretical commitment only.'"

Luxon's commitment to standing candidates in Māori seats is an almost total reversal of the party's previous view. In 2008, National said its plan was to eventually get rid of the Maori seats.

Stuff's Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi told the panel ACT should be following National's suit.

"Democratically, all parties should be standing and ACT should actually be putting people into those Māori seats as well."

Watch the full panel above.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on Three & Three Now, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.