#Maori need to vote left: indigenous politics in NZ

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 “Tama Tu Tama Ora, Tama Noho Tama Mate” – To stand is to live to lie down is to die

The winds are changing in New Zealand politics and the movement of the left is going to silhouette the 2014 elections. The resurgence in New Zealand socialism and the centre-left is the fruits (or the consequences) of the National Party’s capitalist ethos, giving the NZ Labour Party a shot at the top come next year. As David Cunliffe aims to dethrone John Key, he has created a spiritual frenzy in which his biography is being tooted around like some kind of socialist Jesus. The real question though, is where will the diverse Māori nation place their votes if they do vote at all? Can Cunliffe be trusted with the wellbeing of Māori or is his political shuffling just noise?

The Māori constituency need politicians that don’t trade in indigenous self-determination for political crumbs. No doubt the Māori Party has inspired the next generation of political and tribal leaders, but it is evident that their years as a coalition partner with the National government has painted them more as sell-outs than indigenous freedom fighters for socio-economic justice. Sadly ironic, the Māori Party arose out of protest to the Labour Party’s Foreshore & Seabed atrocity, now it seems that Labour’s recent courting of Māori will certainly hammer the last nail in the Māori Party’s political relevancy. As Labour aspires to takeout the Māori electorate seats with either a clean sweep or a good majority, the broad spectrum of indigenous politics seems to be getting a whole lot smaller; not to mention red. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against socialism, but is Labour the actual political expression of socialism or is it just another big party who will ditch indigenous wellbeing as soon as it crosses the finish line? Personally, I just can’t get past Labour’s three major political sins of the last generation – Rogernomics, the Foreshore & Seabed, and Operation 8 – and they haven’t really given any real sincerity of regret and repentance. Apparently, the Māori nation needs a political movement that isn’t going to have a kaupapa of ‘at the table at any cost’ as well as a party that (when in government) turns Māori votes into Māori oppression. If Māori tino rangatiratanga, especially around environmental issues and social justice, is to be taken seriously let alone honoured; the Māori vote needs to go to the left.

More leftward than Labour is the NZ Green Party, in which as the third biggest entity in NZ politics, have encouraging policies and rhetoric of honouring indigenous self-determination and socio-economic equality. The thing with the Greens though, is that (a majority of) the Māori nation prefers Labour due to historical roots not to mention the affinity with the Rātana faith. The Greens don’t need to work the centre-left anymore, that populace is a given, it’s the Māori vote (especially the young eco-indigenous activists) that should be a prime focus for their election campaign come 2014. The global movement of ‘Idle No More’ has been ideologically supported by members of the Greens (if not the whole party), especially indigenous activist Marama Davidson. Pumping out overt support for indigenous mana whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand, like explicitly opposing the TPPA (Trans-Pacific-Partnership-Agreement) and other capitalist legislation that impedes on Māori connection with the land and sea, will be a great avenue in securing a young indigenous (eco-orientated) vote.  Though Labour has always had ‘the working person’s vote’ (or the underemployed), the Greens have shown just as much support for those lower down on the socio-economic scale. More overt concern for indigenous issues will further cement a growing tide of Green voters. Yet perhaps the Māori left is truly embodied in the Mana movement, a political faction that will be a possible coalition candidate for a Labour-Greens government.

Love him or hate him, no one can ever say that Hone Harawira doesn’t fight for Māori socio-economic aspirations and equality. Though the Mana movement was perceived as a radical indigenous faction to begin with, it has certainly become more politically coherent while still keeping its grass-roots ‘for the people’ zest. Born out of domestics within the Māori Party, the Mana movement is exactly what indigenous politics need; an unwavering voice for self-determination and social justice. The last election had Mana take a third of the Māori Party’s votes, and as the latter’s existence seems to hang on the thread of a ‘hopeful’ alliance, I doubt Hone would want to fully box himself into a relationship that would stunt the Mana movement’s growing accord (especially amongst non-Māori voters). Time and time again, the Mana movement has stood up for indigenous rights, whereas the Māori Party has been more like an apologetic buddy for National. If both the Greens and Mana get two Māori seats each, with Labour taking the others, Māori politics would still retain some diversity while heading further left on the political spectrum.

Labour’s rise in the polls (as well as amongst Māori voters) is a great thing, and should be celebrated, but caution should be taken as history shows that when in power, Labour tends to neglect tino rangatiratanga instead of honouring it. I hope Cunliffe does win in 2014, a red government is better than a blue one, but I also hope that the Māori vote isn’t collated as just a Labour constituency. Māori need to vote left, both Mana and the Greens seem to be good at what Labour lacks – walking the talk on indigenous self-determination and socio-economic justice. If Labour (once in government) doesn’t have a definite opposition to the TPPA, than certainly the centre-left isn’t left enough for indigenous rights and ecological stewardship (mana whenua); that’s why the diverse Māori nation need to vote left – Mana or Greens – to insure that indigenous rights aren’t just a draw card for socialist votes but also a philosophy to uphold in our part of the globe.

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