The emergence of smaller political parties is giving ODM strategists sleepless nights as the key opposition outfit nears what may be a make-or-break nominations stage.
Newly-registered parties, including Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), have pitched tent in ODM strongholds of Nyanza and are secretly registering aspirants before the Orange party conducts its nominations.
These parties are providing a soft landing for aspirants who fear they may unfairly lose in the ODM primaries. Key ODM leaders and strategists are worried that the new outfits may undermine Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s quest for a clean sweep of all county-level seats to guarantee him numerical strength at both levels of government.
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Besides CCM, other new parties laying claim to the Nyanza vote are the Green Congress of Party Kenya, Federal Party of Kenya (FPK), Citizens Convention Party (CCP) and Movement for Democracy and Growth.
The founders of these parties have been giving out tickets to aspirants at far cheaper rates than Orange party even as they dispel claims that they were formed to make money as they cash in on desperate politicians who want to secure their candidacy.
Former Rangwe MP Otieno Ogindo dumped ODM recently to launch the Green Congress Party, which he says is already issuing tickets to those who are keen to promote environmental conservation. “This party is not formed for Raila or President Uhuru Kenyatta. We don’t have a preferred presidential candidate,’’ he said in anticipation of the party’s launch in the near future.
Ugenya MP David Ochieng says he may not defend his seat on an ODM ticket and is looking to join the Movement for Democracy and Growth party next week. Ochieng’ said he feels that he is being undermined and misrepresented by ODM leaders. “I have done so much for my people but the party does not recognise my efforts... it views me as a Jubilee mole,’’ he said.
FPK’s Kennedy Okello thinks his party can get representatives in county assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate if more potential aspirants decamp from ODM.
“So far, we have enlisted close to 300 aspirants who want to vie to join county assemblies, in addition to 100 parliamentary hopefuls and 10 governors,” he says.
Some ODM officials say these parties do not pose a significant threat. “When too many people work together on a project, the result could be inferior,’’ said ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohammed.
“They better hold their horses. ODM has announced new measures to avert a post-nominations fallout and avoid a situation where candidates who fail to clinch its ticket can decamp to other parties,” he said.
In this regard, ODM is waiting for the conclusion of the ongoing mass voter registration exercise on February 14 to launch a membership drive. This drive will be “vigorous and sustained,” ODM chairman John Mbadi said.
“Those who think that the party is unpopular should warm up for a tough contest,’’ Mbadi added.
But even as ODM leaders lay out their plans to secure their stronghold, the new parties are not taking things for granted.
Last weekend, Governor Ruto hosted a delegation of 50 people from Migori County to plan for CCM’s launch and recruitment drive in South Nyanza.
Ruto expects the party to attract key political figures with his eye on the presidency in 2022.
“Our interest and resolve to join CCM is not to rival or fight anyone but simply to enhance the democratic space,’’ said the party’s Migori County Coordinator, Maurice Osa. The new parties will not field presidential candidates—they will only give tickets to those who want to vie to become governors, senators, MPs or ward representatives.