Ikaroa-Rāwhiti: And the winner was...?
Although Labour's Meka Whaitiri got the largest number of votes in Saturday's by-election, a closer look at the statistics makes it hard to see this a real 'win' for Labour, let alone for democracy. The voter turn-out was only 32%. Low turn-outs are common in by-elections, but this one is lower even than one sees at local-body elections. What this means is that Labour's candidate vote has dropped from 10,558 in the 2011 election to only 4,368 in the by-election. Parekura Horomia won 57.6% of the candidate vote in 2011, and Whaitiri won 41.5% on Saturday. At least she can say that her support is well ahead of each of the two main rivals from the Mana and Māori parties. The latter came in third, though, compared with being second in 2011, and so that may be a cause for concern for the Māori Party – and an encouraging sign for Mana.
The Labour Party had the advantage of local support and organisation – through its general-electorate committees, covering the whole of the very large Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate. Mobilising fewer than 5,000 voters, though, is hardly something to crow about, and, coupled with disappointing opinion-poll results in recent days, this rather predictable 'win' is not a great cause for celebration.
Both Labour and the Māori Party are struggling for relevance at the moment – and there are also questions being asked about how committed Māori voters are to the Māori electoral roll. Saturday's result does little to answer the critics.