By Anyangâ Nyongâo
The ODM must not allow itself to be intimidated and be given ultimatum as it debates party rules, regulations and procedures for running affairs. These affairs include party organisation, finances, nomination, and election of its leaders and the nomination of its candidates for all regional, national, and county elections.
Recently attention has been drawn to the nomination of the party candidate for presidential elections. It has been averred that the party constitution is undemocratic because it says that the party flag-bearer, the party leader, shall be the party presidential candidate at a national presidential election.
It is important to point out that there is nothing undemocratic about this clause. It was proposed by party members, debated at the National Delegates Congress in 2007 and finally approved as part of the constitution along with all the other clauses. The party has been using this constitution to run its affairs since then.
It is equally important to note that at a special National Governing Council in late 2010, that party organ mandated party legal committee to look into the constitution and revise it in line with the new Constitution of Kenya and other laws attendant therein. The committee has been doing this and the appropriate party organs are discussing its report. The clauses regarding the nomination of party candidates for all elections have not been spared.
The party welcomes suggestions from members and supporters on how best to improve our constitution to ensure that our party is democratic, well run and continues to be attractive to Kenyans as it has been so far. But the party would like these suggestions to be communicated in a democratic and genuine manner and not as threats aimed at compelling the party to do things which neither its members nor party organs approve.
It is further to be noted that an election year is a very risky year in which to debate and approve a party constitution. Individuals will tend to propose new things, which may be tailored towards suiting their electoral intentions and ambitions rather than the wider party interest. In that regard it may be more neutral to go by the rules that existed before electoral contests are in the offing rather than those considered when individuals are already poised to capture certain positions.
What is more important, however, is to note the fact that if the party flag bearer is given the ticket to run for presidential elections is not in any way undemocratic. In South Africa elected party delegates elect and depose the party leader, hence the presidential candidate and even the president already in office. In Great Britain, the Labor Party leader, elected even by Members of Parliament, becomes the Prime Minister when the party wins general elections.
In the United States of America, even after a grueling national campaign, it is the college of delegates that elects who becomes the President of the United States of America. If this were not so, George Bush junior would not have defeated Al Gore some years ago.
That, however, does not mean that we in the ODM must copy what happens in other democracies lock, stock and barrel. But it equally does not mean that we adopt a system of nominating our candidates for elections at any level, including the presidency, which is romantic, expensive, difficult to manage and fraught with unnecessary problems. And that is why we have said that let all proposals be debated by the party organs soberly, rationally, and within the interest of the party.
The interest of the party is to remain strong, well organised, democratic and attractive to the Kenyan people as a party worthy of forming the next government. Our main aim is to win the coming elections and form a government. Internally, this means that we should listen to all voices, big and small, and we should discuss with humility all proposals that our members bring before us and make decisions that will make us win.
Each and every member of the party is a valuable asset. But members need to realise that there are voices, which, though quiet, need to be given the opportunity to be heard.