Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira have formed perhaps the oddest coupling in New Zealand politics. Mr Dotcom, once a financial backer of a right-wing Auckland mayor, is now aligned to the party furthest to the left of the spectrum. Mr Harawira, who found a partnership with National so unbearable that he left the Maori Party, is now in league with John Banks' former benefactor.
It will be a relief to him that the leader of Mr Dotcom's party is to be former Alliance MP Laila Harre. Her recruitment to head the internet millionaire's list required an even greater leap. The formation of internet-Mana coincides with a trial in which Mr Dotcom's donation is centre stage. Though Mr Banks is the one facing charges, the donor's expectations are also matters of moment. The implications were too much for one principled Mana member. Sue Bradford resigned on the merger.
Her disappointment in Mr Harawira will be widely shared. Many New Zealanders who do not agree with his attitudes and views or like some of his language, would credit him with genuine motives. He has not previously capitalised on his seat like this and it is hard to see why he has done so now.
Mr Dotcom's money will be useful for Mana's campaign, no doubt, but hardly essential. Mana has a network of Maori activists who wave its flag for nothing at every opportunity. Mr Harawira's seat seems more essential to Mr Dotcom's plans than additional money may be to the Mana Party.
Mr Dotcom makes no pretence that his motives are any higher than the removal of the Government and particularly John Key, whom he seems to hold personally responsible for the fact that he is fighting extradition to the United States to face internet copyright charges. His chances of manipulating the outcome of the election are much greater if he can use Mr Harawira's seat.
His internet Party has almost no prospect of clearing the 5 per cent threshold for proportional representation. But if it can attract 1 or 2 per cent of the vote in partnership with Mana, the partners may be awarded two or three seats on the strength of Mr Harawira retaining Te Tai Tokerau. Every seat could potentially decide who forms the next government.
Regardless of whether it is National or Labour, New Zealanders can be confident the result will not influence the outcome of extradition proceedings against Mr Dotcom. New Zealand courts and law enforcement are not swayed by political considerations and our two parties of government respect judicial independence.
We can be equally confident Mr Dotcom is well aware of this and that, whatever he hopes to gain by putting his money into New Zealand politics, it is not relief from the possibility of extradition. Quite likely he seeks no more than what he says -- to deny John Key another term. His reason may be vindictive rather than principled or philosophical, but wealth permits him to use politics for a personal grudge.
Voters are unlikely to support his indulgence in significant numbers, which he obviously knows. Hence his pact with Mr Harawira. Personally, philosophically, ethnically, materially, they may be poles apart but they have found common cause in antagonism.
They hope the image of an internet party can attract younger people who might not otherwise turn out to vote. They probably misread non-voters. Many who do not vote at a given election are people whose deeper loyalties prevent them voting for the party in power but who see no reason yet to change the government. Turnouts are often low when no change is in prospect.
Mr Dotcom is wasting his money and Mr Harawira is selling his soul. The latter is paying the greater price.
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