Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Maori Party is not looking for formal coalition agreement post election

The Maori Party has given its closest indication yet as to what it wants to do after the election, even should it hold the balance of power in November, and it has nothing to do with a formal coalition agreement.

Maori co leader Pita Sharples gave a speech this morning at a Forum on the Family , which was hosted by the Family First lobby today. After the speech he said that the Maori Party is not looking to go into coalition with anyone after the election - at this stage.

"We're looking for a Treaty partner, not a coalition partner".

It is not inconceivable that the Maori Party, should it hold the balance of power, could decide that it would be more effective in furthering its agenda during the Government formation process, influencing a minority Government's policy programme outside of a formal coalition agreement. It could do this by one of its members becoming part of the Government - like Peter Dunne currently is - or outside of Government completely.

The Maori Party could negotiate a co-operation agreement, enter into a confidence and supply agreement, or negotiate an agreement that is a combination of the two, with the main governing party. To do so has several advantages over a formal coalition: the Maori Party will not be bound by collective responsibility or have to support all government bills while being constrained by a larger coalition partner who do not have the aspirations of Maori or Te Ao Maori at heart. In addition, it can influence the agenda and government policy before the house sits, for example, by securing government support for a Private Members bill and ensuring that it is highly prioritised in the Governments legislative agenda. Additionally it could prevent a Government from passing specific legislation, for example amending the1993 Electoral Act to abolish the Maori seats, or pass legislation to have the seats entrenched,as the general seats are, until Maori are happy to have them removed.

But if the Maori Party does agree to this type of support arrangement and Pita Sharples was to be come a minister outside cabinet with responsibility for his portfolio area only, one would wonder if your name has to be Peter, (or a variant like Peters or Pita) to be a minister while leading a non-Government party.

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