Only around 12,000 of the nearly 35,000 people on the electoral roll in Ikaroa-Rawhiti bothered to do vote in the by-election.
Labour’s Meka Whaitiri won the seat with just 4,368 votes and a sorry 35.8% turnout.
Is that a record low?
The Mana Party will be delighted that its candidate Te Hāmua Nikora came second with 2,607 votes.
The Maori Party will be very disappointed that its candidate Na Raihania, was third with 2,104.
The win might be enough for those in Labour’s caucus who were aiming their knives at their leader’s back to set them down, for now.
But something all three parties need to think about is that the combined total of Nikora’s and Raihania’s votes was greater than that of Whaitiri’s.
Pita Sharples says the Maori Party, rather than its candidate, is responsible for its result. He didn’t mention, but he ought to be thinking about, his unwillingness to loosen his hold on the leadership.
However, as Matthew Hooton points out:
Had Mr Harawira not split the Maori Party in 2011, it is almost certain it would have won last night’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election. It would most probably have held on to Te Tai Tonga in 2011 so that it would now hold six of the seven Maori electorates and have much greater leverage over Mr Key and Labour. . .
There is no single Maori view but one party targeting the Maori seats would have had a very real chance of challenging Labour for them and being in a very strong position to go with a government led by either National or Labour.
But divided they lost the by-election and will almost certainly be too weak separately to do nearly as well as they could together.
Harawira put his personal feelings before political strategy, opening the way for Labour to retake most of the Maori seats and that could well bring about the demise of these electorates.
The idea of New Zealand First in a governing coalition is the stuff of nightmares. But there would be one small consolation if that was the only way for National to stay in government, both parties favour culling the Maori seats.
National conceded that policy when it invited the Maori Party into coalition in 2008.
Should the Maori Party not be in a position to help National into government and, perish the thought, New Zealand First be a potential coalition partner, the Maori seats could go.
If Harawira had bothered to take a longer view beyond his personal agenda he would have been aware of that possibility and the risk he was taking in splintering from the Maori Party.