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ODM hits out at Ruto over delayed funds, begins grassroots elections

 ODM Central Management Committee led by the party leader Raila Odinga. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Nearly ten years after drama unfolded during its grassroots elections, the ODM party has announced a fresh round of grassroots elections to take place in phases beginning end of this month.

The opposition party has announced commencement of its grassroots elections, even as party officials raise concerns over a funding shortage for political parties. 

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, after a Central Management Committee meeting chaired by party leader Raila Odinga, blamed the government for the party’s cash crunch, accusing it of deliberately withholding funds for political parties, thereby crippling their operations.

“Unfortunately, the Political Parties Fund has become the death knell of the parties it was meant to support,” Sifuna said, adding, “Since coming to office, the Kenya Kwanza regime has pursued a deliberate policy of denying funds to the parties, effectively crippling their operations.”

According to figures released by the National Treasury in the previous fiscal year, the Political Parties Fund allocated a substantial sum of Sh1.48 billion to support activities of numerous political parties across the country, with ODM being allocated Sh308 million. The lion’s share went to the ruling UDA party, which was allocated Sh577 million. The party is demanding release of the funds for smooth operations as they prepare for their upcoming elections.

ODM’s grassroots elections begin on the April 27, 29, and 30.

This will be the first time the party is holding its grassroots election after members and supporters pushed to boost the outfit’s leadership. The party’s attempt to hold grassroots elections was in February 2014 when its National Delegates Conference was disrupted at the Kasarani gymnasium.

Drama unfolded when men dressed in black suits overturned tables, smashed ballot boxes, and destroyed election materials, insisting that the polls could not proceed unless they were furnished with party registers. Yesterday, the committee had a sitting to deliberate on, among other issues, the upcoming party grassroots elections.

“This meeting took place against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to reinvigorate the party through various activities including, but not limited to, holding grassroots elections,’’ Sifuna said.

First phase

Elections for the first phase will take place in Kwale, Busia and Siaya Counties on April 27.

On April 29, Kajiado, Migori and Wajir will hold their elections. Kisii, Vihiga and Muranga counties will hold theirs on April 30.

“A further timetable covering the next batch of counties shall be released in due course,’’ said Sifuna at their Capitol Hill offices in Nairobi.

Sifuna, while announcing the decision of the committee, said the governing council will come up with the modalities to guide the elections. The party has also scheduled a National Executive Committee meeting next week to ratify the deliberations of the National Steering Committee that will oversee the exercise.

The complex succession politics that have threatened to tear apart the party over the impending exit of the party’s leader, should he secure the AU Commission chair job, were however not discussed.

Since Raila announced his interest in the AU Commission chair job on 15th February, succession wars have been rocking the party and the debate on who will take over the opposition mantle once he exits the local scene has ensued.

Raila has endorsed deputy party leaders Ali Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya to succeed him if he wins the AU’s coveted job. 

However, some politicians from his Luo Nyanza turf want his succession race to be opened to all interested candidates and not limited to Joho and Oparanya.

They argue that the region must get its fair share of leadership as the party’s political bedrock.

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