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Maori Party leadership talks to continue

Published: 11:59AM Wednesday January 23, 2013 Source: ONE News

One of Prime Minister John Key's potentially vital coalition partners is now embroiled in a leadership stoush.

Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples confirmed today that he is being challenged for his position by Te Ururoa Flavell.

The issue is currently being discussed by Maori Party members, MPs and the executive, at a meeting during annual Ratana celebrations near Wanganui.

ONE News political reporter Michael Parkin said that it is likely talks will carry on tomorrow.

"Tariana Turia says it's then [tomorrow] when we may know how this contest will play out, but we may not know the actual result until the middle of the year.

"Even if Te Ururoa Flavell wins, there may still be problems, as Pita Sharples says even without the leadership he would still want to stay on as Maori Affairs Minister," said Parkin.

Sharples also told ONE News that he still has lots of support from his party.

"It's an interesting one whether or not I carry on... to keep continuity and my contacts which are many, or whether I step down now and let a new person come in, they both have benefits I think.

"It's got to go to Council and the people will decide. As a Maori, the people will decide for me."

Sharples added that he was not surprised by Flavell's challenge.

"We talk all of the time. I think we both want the Council to sort it out because it's their right to do that," said Sharples.

A replacement for out-going co-leader Tariana Turia is also likely to be announced this week.

Harawira open to Maori Party return

Adding to the tension is an offer from Mana Party leader Hone Harawira to form some sort of Maori political alliance.

"I would certainly expect to be party to discussions on leadership policy and direction and I would actually think Maori people would want me to be the leader," said Harawira.

He said this morning that he had been approached by various Kaumatua and Kuia to come back because of divisions among the leadership.

"It's nice to be wanted but being the leader of the Maori Party right now is like being the captain of the Titanic just before it smacks into the iceberg," he added.

He quit the party before the 2011 election to set up Mana and held Te Tai Tokerau seat at the 2011 election.

Mana was a movement of committed activists willing to step up and fight for the rights of the people, Harawira said, whereas the Maori Party was led by people who seemed old and tired.

"Maoridom deserves the strong and vibrant leadership that Mana can provide."

The Maori Party's membership had fallen from 24,000 when he was in it to just 600 today, he said.

But Tariana Turia says she is not interested.

"If I go on past experience and if I'm being really honest about it, it was a horrendous experience and not one that I personally would care to repeat," she said today.

And it is likely that any Harawira alliance would end National's coalition with the Maori Party

"I think Hone Harawira's made his position when it comes to the National Party very clear& and it's mutual. So there's no love lost there," said John Key.