NZ Election Victor Closer to Bringing Maori into Govt

WELLINGTON ~ New Zealand Prime Minister-elect John Key moved a step closer on Wednesday to bringing a party representing the indigenous Maori population into his government.

Key met the leaders of the Maori Party for a second round of talks Wednesday, resulting in plans to draw up a draft agreement under which the party would not oppose National in key financial and confidence votes.

The victor of Saturday’s elections, which ended nine years in power for Helen Clark’s Labour Party, wants to finalize his new government by the end of this week.

This would allow the government to be sworn in next week and allow Key to attend a summit of Asia Pacific leaders starting in Peru on November 22.

Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia said a draft agreement would be drawn up after Wednesday’s meeting and they would ask supporters for their approval at meetings during the weekend.

They declined to reveal to reporters the details of the draft agreement, including the concessions Key would make in return for Maori Party support.

Key has indicated he could offer the Maori Party a ministerial portfolio outside the cabinet as part of the deal.

The feedback from leaders in Maoridom was that it was important to have a relationship with National, the Maori Party leaders said.

Most Maori voters have in the past supported the defeated centre-left Labour Party, but Sharples and Turia said Maori leaders supported forming a relationship with the victorious National.

“We wouldn’t have gone this far if we didn’t see gains,” Sharples said.

“The most important thing we are agreeing to is how our relationship will move forward,” Turia added.

Key is now aiming to finalize similar agreements with the right ACT Party and the centrist United Future to ensure his government has a healthy majority in the 122-seat parliament.

The support of Rodney Hide’s ACT party, which has five seats, would be enough on its own to ensure a majority for Key but he says he wants to form an “inclusive government.”

A wider alliance would give Key a stronger base going into the next election due in 2011 and give him the option of seeking support from the Maori Party for policies opposed by ACT.

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