The Maori Party is likely to play a major role in the process to form a new government after the November 8 General Election, either as a coalition partner for National or Labour, or in some type of support role to enable one of the major parties to govern.
The Maori Party holds 4 of the 7 Maori electorate seats and hopes to win them all.
Maori seats, of which there were 4 originally, were established by New Zealand's parliament in 1867.
Latest polls show Maori voters are placing pressure on the Maori Party to forge a post-election deal with Labour rather than National.
The latest TVNZ Marae programme DigiPolls in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland region) and Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland region) Maori seats show there is about 70 per cent support for the Maori Party doing a post-election deal with Labour. Poll results here.
But 62 percent of voters in the two electorates opposed a post-election deal with National.
This underscores the historical deep-seated mistrust of National among the Maori electorate. This was only deepened when the former National leader Don Brash's Orewa speech in 2004 criticised what he called the "Treaty of Waitangi Grievance Industry" and called for an end to affirmative action policies for Maori. Furthermore, National has advocated abolition of the Maori seats so Maori electors are justifiably suspicious.
But given the importance of the second vote cast under the MMP electoral system, Labour has cause to be concerned about the trend in party voting in the two Maori electorates surveyed.
In Te Tai Tokerau, the Maori Party stands to pick up 45 percent of the party vote to Labour's 35 percent, while in Tamaki Makaurau the Maori Party is running at just over 41 percent of the party vote to Labour's 37.5 percent.
Labour forged a strong and long lasting relationship with the Ratana movement in 1935 that ensured Maori support for Labour for the next sixty years in Maori seats.
In 1996, however, the New Zealand First party, though not a Maori political party but with a strong Maori wing, won all four Maori seats from Labour.
While Labour won all the seats back three years later, a deep rift with Maoridom was created when Labour pushed through the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004 that overruled the Court of Appeal's decision in Attorney-General v Ngati Apa (2003) that Maori were entitled to seek customary title over parts of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed in the Maori Land Court. The Act effectively extinguished any Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed.
Tariana Turia then a junior minister in the Labour government voted against the bill and resigned from the party, forming the Maori Party with her allies. She is currently a co-leader with Dr Pita Sharples.
Maori Party co-leader, Dr Pita Sharples, interviewed on NZOneTonight in September 2008 about the principles and policies important to the Maori Party and its supporters: