Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Maori Party leaders revising plans to quit politics

Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have reportedly been under pressure from supporters to  stand again at the next election.   Photo / NZPA
Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have reportedly been under pressure from supporters to stand again at the next election. Photo / NZPA

Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have revealed they are reconsidering retiring from politics next election - just as a new poll shows them potentially holding the balance of power.

Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples had indicated that the 2011 election would be their last.

But they are reconsidering after being asked repeatedly by supporters, a party official said.

Mrs Turia, 68, confirmed that last night on Prime News.

"It may well be that we stand at the next election but ... we are still working those issues through," she said.

And Dr Sharples, 70, also confirmed a rethink. "I'm giving that real consideration," he told the channel from China, where he is leading a Maori business delegation.

Mrs Turia was elected as a Maori Party candidate in a 2004 byelection after resigning from Labour.

In 2005 the Maori Party won four of the seven Maori seats, in 2008 it won five and last year it won three - the co-leaders and Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

Speculation about a leadership transition from Dr Sharples to Mr Flavell threw the Maori Party's confidence and money supply negotiations with National into temporary turmoil last December.

Last night, a party source said that the co-leaders were being pressured by members to reconsider their retirement plans.

The rethink coincides with a new poll by Reid Research for TV3 showing National support has slumped and that Labour could form a government with the Greens and the Maori Party if an election were held tomorrow.

National's support tumbled by four points and Labour gained by almost the same amount.

Labour, the Greens and Mana would have 61 seats in a 123-seat Parliament and National and Act would have 58.

The Maori Party would hold the balance of power if its three MPs kept their electorate seats and if the Greens and Mana went with Labour.

It wouldn't matter whether United Future went with the left or right.

The poll of 1000 eligible voters was conducted between May 29 and June 6, at the height of the government's Budget crisis over its plan for increased teacher-pupil ratios, which it eventually dumped on Thursday.

The results of the party-vote section of the survey are National 45.8 (down 4); Labour 33.2 (up 3.8); Greens 14.4 (up 0.3); NZ First 2.8 (up 0.5); Maori Party 1.4 (down 0.2); Mana 1 (no change); Act 0.5 (up 0.3); and United Future 0 (no change). The Conservative Party, which is not in Parliament, polled 1.1 (no change).

Prime Minister John Key, who has been overseas for a fortnight, has dropped in the preferred Prime Minister stakes by 3.7 points to 40.5 per cent.

Labour leader David Shearer is up 1.9 points to 12.3; NZ First leader Winston Peters is up 0.2 to 4.8 and Greens co-leader Russel Norman is up 1.8 to 4 per cent.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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