Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Party youth wing sees Dotcom's voter appeal

Internet Party founder will need to sell his vision to delegates today.

Mr Dotcom will speak to delegates this morning. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Mr Dotcom will speak to delegates this morning. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A tie-up with Kim Dotcom's Internet Party is finding favour among the Mana Party's younger grassroots members as a means of engaging young voters, Mana's president Annette Sykes says.

The prospect of a tie-up with the Internet Party and the controversial German millionaire's appearance has helped fire unprecedented levels of interest in the party's annual meeting today in Rotorua, leader and sole MP Hone Harawira said yesterday.

Mr Dotcom's speech to delegates this morning is his chance to convince the approximately 250 Mana members attending that an alliance is in their interests and won't compromise their core values.

He is up against the perception that as a conspicuously wealthy man who initially cosied up to the political right in the form of John Banks, he is making a cynical grab for the chance of a seat or two in Parliament that a tie-up with Mana and Te Tai Tokerau MP Mr Harawira would offer.

"That's one of the perspectives held strongly by some of our membership," said Ms Sykes, who is also the party's Waiariki candidate.

Mana's Sue Bradford has been the most vocal critic on those grounds but declined to comment before the meeting.

However, Ms Sykes said that a number of key younger Mana members held the view that Mr Dotcom was merely the party founder, and any relationship would be with the party itself, "which is about digital democracy, a process that can transform the political realities of the New Zealand landscape".

Ms Sykes pointed out that in three years of door-knocking, the Mana Party had lifted its membership to a little over 3000 while the Internet Party had gained 2000 members in just two weeks with its online and smartphone push.

"That transformative outcome must mean that any democratic movement must be open to at least the idea of some of the issues that are being put into practice."

Ms Sykes said Mana was mindful of the fact that only 13 per cent of Maori aged 18 to 25 - a group which is key to the party's chances at the ballot box - voted in the last election. "How do you get them mobilised? I think the Internet Party is attracting that younger set in our movement."

Mr Harawira confirmed yesterday that discussions with the Internet Party had included the use of its technology and expertise to engage new voters. That would enable Mana to increase its support without cannibalising the vote of other parties on the left, increasing the chances of ousting the current Government.

Mr Harawira downplayed the prospect that Mana could receive financial support from Mr Dotcom although he acknowledged there would be "sharing of resources" if a deal went ahead.

He indicated that even if Mr Dotcom strikes a chord with the party membership, a formal deal will still be some time off.

"I don't think we will be in a position where we can present anything final tomorrow.

"I think tomorrow will be the decision on whether we continue the discussions.

"The detail of how this might work is yet to be completed.

"If Kim Dotcom wants to say the leader of the Internet Party is going to be Don Brash we'd probably have issues with that."

Economist and Trade Me millionaire Gareth Morgan will also address members.

Today's agenda includes addresses from broadcaster and former Alliance MP Willie Jackson and former Labour MP Georgina Beyer.

• For the latest updates visit nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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