In-fighting blights Maori Party vote

By Jon Stokes

Accusations of intimidation have been levelled at supporters of the Maori Party's Northland hopeful Hone Harawira in elections for the party's Te Tai Tokerau candidacy.

A Maori Party official, who did not want to be named, said tension had flared at two of four meetings held to vote for the party's Northland candidate in Whangarei and Kaitaia earlier this week.

A third election was held at West Harbours Piringatahi Marae on Wednesday night with the final vote in Kaikohe on Saturday.

Maori activist and chief executive of Kaitaia-based radio station Te Hiku, Hone Harawira has been tipped as a likely contender to take on Labour's Dover Samuels at the general elections later this year.

However Auckland-based lawyer Alexis Nathan has emerged as a foil to Mr Harawira's political aspirations.

The official said concern over the closeness of the contest had pushed supporters of Mr Harawira to act outside the party's rules.

"Hone's supporters have been blatantly promoting their man, right inside the hall where the vote takes place."

He said complaints had also been made over the use of billboards outside halls and marae where voting was held, and blanket advertising on Northland's Maori radio stations.

Election voting convener Di Grennell confirmed complaints had been made but declined to discuss details.

"There have been some concerns expressed. I have seen some of the issues, but I am in the process of trying to manage some of those things.

"At the heart of the Maori party constitution and kaupapa is manakitanga and kotahitanga. It would be fair to say that there have been some activities that have not been consistent with that."

She said the promotion of candidates prior to voting was not against party rules.

The final vote on Saturday in Kaikohe, on the day of the launch of the Ngapuhi festival, is likely to be crucial.

Mr Harawira did not respond to messages seeking comment. Maori Party nominees for Te Tai Tokerau are: electorate seat only, Hone Harawira, Alexis Nathan; electorate seat and list, Raumati Para, Jim Tipene, Merehora Taurua; list only, Malcolm Peri and Mere Tau.

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