Long read: Did the Māori electorates decide the 2017 election?

Labour’s triumph in the Māori electorates in the 2017 general election ousted the Māori Party from parliament and deprived National of a governing partner. In this extract from Stardust and Substance: The New Zealand General Election of 2017 Morgan Godfery looks at what happened and why.

Consider this neglected counterfactual, a what-might-have-been on election night: if Māori voters backed the Māori Party, returning Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox to Parliament, National might have patched together a government.

It seems like a distant memory, but it’s a useful reminder — the election was a close-run thing. The Māori electorates mattered. Bill English and his caucus came home with 58 seats, and ACT’s David Seymour did his duty in Epsom, leaving the centre-right two seats shy of forming a government. If Flavell and Fox were still MPs the morning after, would we be talking about a National-led government instead?

It’s a question worth considering. In the post-election fog, Flavell told TVNZ’s Q+A that Bill English deserved another three years in power. “I believe he can take the country forward.”

That same morning, Fox told Three’s The Hui that opting for Labour over the Māori Party meant returning to “the age of colonisation”. Perhaps this is heartache and regret speaking, but you can still identify a preference for a National-led government. National and the Māori Party spent nine years in government together, and better the devil you know, as the saying goes.

Read the full essay at E-Tangata.


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