Dr Pita Sharples, Maori Party co-leader, says that National Party leader, John Key, gave assurances to the Maori Party in a meeting between the parties that National would not abolish the Maori electorate seats without Maori agreement. Harry Walker, Sharples' chief of staff, recalls Mr Key saying that National would put the issue on the back burner.
Mr Key & his deputy leader, Bill English, have denied making such an assurance and that no agreements will be made with other parties before the election. National's declared policy on the seats is that the seats would be abolished around 2014 because all outstanding Treaty of Waitangi claims should be settled by then.
Labour leader & PM Helen Clark has weighed in to the controversy saying she believed Sharples' claim: "I believe Pita Sharples. I have not always agreed with him as you know but I believe he is an honest man".
By making public the alleged assurance, the Maori Party may be trying to manoeuvre National into a corner on the Maori seats while trying to appease supporters in the Maori electorates that have been telling the Maori Party to seek a post-election coalition agreement with Labour rather than National because of National's policy to abolish the seats.