By VITALIS KIMUTAI and ATHMAN AMRAN
ODM has formally changed its constitution to allow any member to run against party leader Raila Odinga for the Orange presidential ticket.
“The National Governing Council has resolved to amend nomination and election rules that made the party leader the automatic presidential candidate,” announced ODM Secretary General Anyang’ Nyong’o. “We are opening space for others to challenge (Prime Minister Raila Odinga) for the position.”
The controversial rule on an automatic flag bearer was cited as one reason for the exit of Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi from the party in April this year.
It had been created earlier to tame the ambitions of Eldoret North MP William Ruto, another former ODM leader who later fell out with Raila and left the orange party.
Plans to change the article were under way by the time Mudavadi, who was also deputy party leader, bolted out to United Democratic Forum. His critics, therefore, dismissed his move as an excuse.
At the time, however, the Sabatia MP was concerned that the change had been put off until after a party registration deadline that could have seen him trapped in ODM at the mercy of party organs that might not deliver on their promise.
The decision by ODM’s National Governing Council comes at a time Raila has no opposition to speak of inside ODM. New opinion polls also indicate he is still way ahead of fellow presidential aspirants in rival parties. With Mudavadi out of the way Raila’s position as the party flag bearer is almost certainly sealed. He, however, says the change brings about a “level playing field”.
“We are changing our rules to accommodate competing views and to allow a level playing field,” Raila said. The PM said the party needs a revamped and efficient elections board capable of conducting free and fair nomination that ensures the ticket goes to the most competitive men and women.
He accused his rivals of ganging up to block him from ascending to the presidency. “As a party we will fight no one, we will not gang up against anyone,” Raila said. “But we will never give up fighting for Kenya. We will gang up only for Kenya.”
Party chairman Henry Kosgey said the adoption of a new party constitution was a sign of ODM’s commitment to bring about change.
Prof Nyong’o, who is also the Minister for Medical Services, said the nomination primaries for the presidential ticket would be presided over by the National Election Board at a National Delegates Conference (NDC).
“In the event only one presidential aspirant showing interest in the seat, he/she will be presented for endorsement by the NDC members,” Nyong’o said.