ODM leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, appears to hold all the cards in his upcoming showdown with his party’s Number Two.
As members of an informal ‘rapid response’ team scramble to avoid a potentially divisive contest within the party, other players are preparing the ground for victory should battle be unavoidable.
Ready to rumble: Mudavadi backers scramble
to ensure level playing field for party poll as Raila
allies meet this week to plan ways of containing
deputy leader. Photo: File/Standard
If Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi is not prevailed upon to abandon his challenge for the party leadership, he could find himself out-foxed by a raft of measures aimed at shifting the odds in Raila’s favour.
The plans allow ODM to maintain the appearance of internal democracy, making it harder for Mudavadi to defect should he lose. Allies of the PM are considering insisting that each candidate for party presidential ticket have a running mate in place before facing delegates. This allows Raila to openly explore options to his pairing with Mudavadi, while denying the DPM a fallback position as Number Two should he lose to the PM.
This will increase the pressure on Mudavadi to stand down. The requirement may also help seal a Raila victory since few of ODM’s political heavyweights may want to take their chances as Mudavadi’s partner.
The question of how delegates get to decide on the method used to settle the contest for party leadership is also an issue. Mudavadi has expressed fears that the vote at a planned National Delegates Conference may be rigged.
In an exclusive interview with our sister newspaper, The County Weekly, during which he revealed his plan to beat Raila, Mudavadi charged that a vote in Nairobi was likely to be fixed.
“Sometimes even non-party members get an opportunity to vote,” the Deputy PM said, referring to past NDCs. “Because of time constraints, there is no proper verification.” Mudavadi argued that holding party elections at the county level would ensure a larger turnout and prevent manipulation.
He has been pushing for an expanded poll, involving 180 delegates from every county. The DPM’s allies are pushing for the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission to oversee the party nomination to prevent rigging.They also say the ODM Secretariat, headed by Janet Ongera, and the National Elections Board, chaired by Philip Okundi, are pro-Raila and should be reconstituted. Non-members voting as fake delegates are not the only worry: Doubts have also surfaced about legitimate delegates in connection with repeat grassroots elections ordered in some areas.
At least one member of ODM elections board has expressed “strong reservations” about some of the repeat polls. “There are problems with the way the party is handling election issues in Nairobi, Nakuru, Meru, Voi and Taita,” said the NEB member.
“There is a scheme to have delegates who are comfortable with one presidential aspirant elected.” The official questioned why, for example, repeat elections had been ordered for a fourth time in Matungu constituency in Butere/Mumias district.
The date of the NDC is also a ‘secret weapon’ that may be used to wrong-foot Mudavadi and other aspirants for national office. Architect JT Okinda, who plans to challenge Anyang’ Nyong’o for the secretary general’s position, has demanded that the date be made public. “We are asking the party to announce the date so that these uncertainties may end,” he said.
Okinda favours Mudavadi’s proposal for county-based nominations. “I think we should give room for a second opinion, because holding the nominations at the counties will save the party and aspirants a lot (of money).”
Many ODM officials claim they have been asked not to discuss the row between the party leader and his ambitious deputy. One MP from Nyanza, however, revealed that legislators from the region plan to meet this week to discuss the Mudavadi issue. Asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, the legislator said one way to silence Mudavadi would be to get delegates to vote for a team rather than individuals.
“We may be forced to ask the two to look for running mates so that if Mudavadi wins, he goes with his running mate and if the PM wins, he runs with a running mate,” the MP said.
However, ODM Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh dismissed suggestions anyone would float the running mate plan.
“We are not going to do things that are outside our rules,” Shebesh said. “It’s two people who are going for the ODM ticket. The vote would be on the two, not on teams.”
Shebesh rejected claims ODM Secretariat or NEB were biased or that party elections were being repeated in selected branches to tilt matters in Raila’s favour.
“If the NEB was biased, Mudavadi would have protested,” Shebesh said. “The decision to have repeat polls was taken in agreement long before Mudavadi took on Raila.”
Describing the Mudavadi renaissance as part of a wider conspiracy to undermine the PM, the legislator predicted this requirement would demonstrate the weakness of Mudavadi’s political backing. “He has been very lukewarm. ODM has even lost civic elections in his own Vihiga backyard. His rating in opinion polls has been steadily dismal and his rise to challenge Raila can only be suspicious,” the MP said. The upcoming NDC had initially been planned for March 30, but was called off as the jostling over the method to be used to nominate party candidate increased. Key ODM leaders have now gone silent on the matter.
A meeting of the party’s Parliamentary Group and National Executive Council called on Monday to discuss the proposed NDC was cancelled at the eleventh hour, apparently due to differences between supporters of Raila and Mudavadi.
“We regret to inform you that the NEC/PG meeting scheduled for Monday, February 20 at Orange House, starting at 2.30pm, has been postponed until further notice,” read a message sent by Prof Nyong’o.
Party officials claim the delay is to allow them to verify the list of delegates. In an interview with The Standard On Sunday, ODM Elections Board Secretary, John Misoi, said preparation for the delegates’ conference is on course.
He explained that the party’s top organ was only held back by the incomplete list and other details.
“We are still fine-tuning the list of delegates in accordance with the requirements laid out by the Registrar of Political Parties,” Dr Misoi said.
“Once that is ready, everything will be on course.” The new date for the NDC is expected to be sometime before a mid-April deadline to conform to the Political Parties Act and avoid deregistration. Alex Irungu, a National Executive Council member, called for all parties to respect the NDC’s verdict.
“Whatever nomination method delegates adopt should be accepted by all,” Irungi stated. “It is important that the party stays together even after that.”
There has been talk that Mudavadi is being sponsored by one or more of Raila’s rivals to manufacture a crisis in ODM before decamping to the United Democratic Forum.
Dismissing such talk, Mudavadi has called for the Fred Gumo-led ‘rapid response’ team tasked with talking him out of challenging Raila to be scrapped. The ODM deputy party leader says the party’s constitution has no provisions for such mediators. The DPM took his campaign to Machakos yesterday and is scheduled to appear in Meru today.
Reporting by Isaac Ongiri. Additional reporting by Stephen Makabila and Protus Onyango. The Standard