Cablegate: New Zealand's Newly Formed Maori Party Takes First
C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000601
DEPT FOR EAP/ANP
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2014
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND'S NEWLY FORMED MAORI PARTY TAKES FIRST
SEAT IN PARLIAMENT
REF: A. WELLINGTON 423
B. WELLINGTON 373
Classified By: POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC COUNSELOR,
TIMOTHY ZUNIGA-BROWN, FOR REASONS 1.5(B,D)
1. (SBU) Maori activist Tariana Turia used her decisive win
in a July 10 by-election to launch the Maori Party, with
herself as its first MP. Turia easily regained her seat in
Parliament after resigning her Labour Party Government seat
in May protest over the government's stance on Maori claims
to NZ's foreshore and seabed. Turia and Maori Party
co-leader Pita Sharples pledged to challenge the current
Labour Party incumbents in the seven Parliamentary seats
reserved for Maori, but it is yet unclear whether they will
run candidates for non-reserved Parliamentary seats in the
2005 general election.
2. (U) Prime Minister Helen Clark said her Labour Party would
not court Maori Party support, despite Labour's razor-thin,
single-vote majority in Parliament. Labour has already
indicated that they challenge Turia again in the 2005
election and expect to regain the seat. Clark also moved to
secure the support of the remaining Maori MPs by dividing
Turia's former portfolios among them.
3. (U) Turnout for the by-election was low, with over 8,500
votes cast of an eligible 26,000 voters. (Note: Turia was
elected a Labour MP with 10,002 votes in 2003.) Members of
the Maori Party blamed voter apathy for the low turnout, with
volunteers reporting that over 30 percent of all eligible
voters contacted were unaware the by-election was occurring.
Party organizers also pointed to the quarter of eligible
Maori whose electoral roll information was incorrect.
4. (C) Comment: Maori political movements in the past have
found it difficult to form a coherent policy based solely on
race and have often been hi-jacked by extremist elements.
With a majority of Maori tribal leaders either advocating a
politically neutral stance or backing Labour, it is unlikely
that Turia's personal mandate will automatically translate
into sustained Maori support for a new party.