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This article analyses the role played by culture and the strategic communication of culture in the formation and establishment of the Māori Party. As an indigenous grassroots party, which achieved electoral success in the 2005, general election in New Zealand, the Māori Party offers an unusual case of cultural primacy as a political party for indigenous people. The Māori Party campaigned to be the first successful party to give a distinctive voice to Māori in a parliament dominated by Pakeha (New Zealand Europeans).

In examining the Māori Party's formation and campaign as a case study, the article focuses on socio-political conditions, issues of national identity, media changes, and the cultural relations between Māori and Pakeha. It pays particular attention to those that influenced public opinion during the 14 months of election campaigning. It argues that the strategic framing of the Māori Party as a movement giving a distinctive voice for Māori established the foundations for the campaign's success. In conclusion, the significance of the achievements of the Māori Party in the 2008 general election are discussed as evidence of the now distinct and recognized representation of Māori within the New Zealand democratic process. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.