The Maori Party may end up with no parliamentary leader at all.
Following debate earlier this year over the current leadership and potential succession plans, the Party's looking at a model that would see its three MPs take leadership in areas of their respective strengths.
Co-leader Tariana Turia says it wouldn't be a three way co-leadership and maintains it's the people that lead the Party.
This is the compromise option. The party is in a straitjacket. The Constitution demands a consensus on the leadership question.* That means that, in practice, a hostile leadership takeover can't succeed. The incumbent's supporters and electorate branch will block any attempt at a takeover. Without winning the incumbent's supporters and electorate branch a prospective leader can't reach the required consensus. A model approach in theory, but needing consensus makes it hard - if not impossible - to clean out deadwood.
I'm not saying Pita Sharples is deadwood. He and Tariana anchor Maori Party support and the party's political identity is tied to their reputations and mana. Having said that - and I've made this clear in the past - the party needs to usher in generational change. The Maori electorate is overwhelmingly young and electing Te Ururoa Flavell is the first step in acknowledging shifting demographics.
There's no use in having three leaders but no one to lead. The party can't afford to relitigate this issue every couple of months. If Te Ururoa can't and won't make leader, what's the point in sticking around? Were he to leave - and I think that becomes more and more likely with each rejection - the Maori Party lose continuity post-Turia/Sharples. It would be the Maori Party's death certificate. Waiariki would fall to Annette Sykes or a strong Labour candidate.
Post script: I've covered this issue at length before. See Sharples v Flavell: the leadership edition and Trouble in the Maori Party: Act 1 for more (better) comment.
*Tuku Morgan explained it very well on Native Affairs.