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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Devil of a deal puts Harawira in control

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Photo / APN
Photo / APN

If Hone Harawira has sold his party's soul to the devil, one thing is for sure, he got a good price for it.

Which is just as well. To sign up or not sign up with Kim Dotcom must have been a real quandary for Mana party activists like Sue Bradford, Annette Sykes and John Minto.

Nothing that Harawira could extract by way of concessions from the internet tycoon was going to satisfy Bradford. Her opposition to the plan for Mana to join forces with Dotcom's Internet Party was based on her belief that a party of the poor should not be in the pocket of a political sugar-daddy. She has voted with her feet.

But Harawira has driven as hard a bargain with Dotcom as the wiliest trader in the backstreet bazaars of Cairo in return for letting Dotcom's candidates possibly piggy-back their way into Parliament courtesy of Harawira's electorate seat.

He has treated yesterday's creation of a new joint election vehicle as a brief marriage of convenience which Mana should exploit to the maximum to increase the chances of several new Mana MPs entering Parliament.

Harawira becomes leader of the new joint "Internet Mana" party; Mana and the Internet Party will pool resources and run on a joint ticket for the party vote.

No prizes for guessing who will be paying the bills.

Harawira's real coup is to secure for Mana three of the first four places on the new party's list. But it is conceivable that a rejuvenated Mana might win two or three more of the Maori electorates with Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau.

That would block the Internet Party from getting an MP off the list unless the party vote for the joint party were to top 2 to 3 per cent.

Harawira, wisely, has also secured an escape route which would allow Mana to exit from the arrangement at short notice.

Furthermore, the whole agreement lapses six weeks after the election unless efforts are made to renew it. That suggests both parties do not see yesterday's deal as a long-term arrangement.

It is before the election that matters most, however. The new party could yet be the surprise package of the coming election - especially if the other centre-left parties continue to flounder.

At a minimum, the novelty value of the new party should guarantee Harawira more visibility during the official election campaign.

And he will now have the money and resources to avoid being shut out. He can go on the offensive, rather than just battling to hold his seat.

Maori Party, beware. And Labour too.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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