Labour's Nanaia Mahuta is fighting back after the Maori King endorsed her rival, Rahui Papa, warning it could put the Kingitanga in a difficult position if there was a change in Government.
Mahuta, the cousin of King Tuheitia, is standing against the Maori Party's Papa in the Hauraki-Waikato seat. King Tuheitia last year threw his support behind the Maori Party and repeated the endorsement at his Koroneihana anniversary this year. He has also endorsed Papa.
Papa is his spokesman and Maori Party President Tukoroirangi Morgan is also one of the King's key advisers.
Mahuta said it was disappointing and she believed the King had acted on the advice of advisers acting out of self-interest.
"It potentially puts the King in a difficult position if there is a change in Government because he's been so overt in his political leanings.
"He's made some very strong comments about Labour and I think he's clearly positioned himself with one political party."
Mahuta said Tuheitia's his predecessors had maintained relationships no matter who the Government of the day was because the role of Kingitanga was to advocate for Maori aspiration.
"I think that in itself has put the Kingitanga movement at risk. The outcome of the elections, whether he likes it or not will be a reflection on his own mandate and this is the difficult position his key people have put him in. People are asking what happens if nobody votes for the Maori Party and there is no Maori Party, does that mean there's no more Kingitanga?"
Papa said Mahuta's comment about the change of Government amounted to a threat if Labour was in Government.
"I think it's a shot across the bow of the Kingitanga."
Although the King's mother Dame Te Atairangikaahu was apolitical, Papa did not agree the Kingitanga Movement had traditionally stayed out of partisan politics, pointing to King Mahuta Tawhiao's endorsement of Maui Pomare in the 1900s as one example.
"This is something that is not new and we've rebounded from threats to the Kingitanga before. Post-September there may be a need for the Labour Party to cuddle up to the Maori Party and that will see a whole new dynamic from what is said before the election and after the election."
He also denied he and Morgan had "manipulated" the King.