ODM bows to demands for nominations for hotly contested seats

ODM national chairman John Mbadi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

ODM party has bowed to pressure from aspirants and is now scheduled to conduct nominations through universal suffrage for hotly contested seats.

The Raila Odinga-led party kicked up a storm over its decision to use consensus and opinion polls to issue direct tickets to contestants in their strongholds. To avert a fallout, ODM national chairman John Mbadi said the party will subject aspirants eyeing various seats across the country to nominations in areas where consensus has failed.

During a televised interview, Mr Mbadi said that whereas the party still held that consensus was the best method to ensure a win of the majority seats, preparations were underway to conduct nominations.

“We started with consensus-building and are still pursuing it... we have concluded primaries in some areas and not yet in some. If it becomes very difficult to agree, we will take them (aspirants) to universal suffrage by party members and that we will do next week,” he said. “Most of the nominations, if there is to be a vote, will be undertaken next week.”

ODM has already held primaries in Kwale, Taita Taveta and Homa Bay counties, but it postponed the exercise in Nakuru, Mombasa and Kilifi counties to allow for consensus building.

Yesterday, the party’s top brass met with aspirants from Mombasa and Kilifi in Nairobi in an attempt to have them reach consensus on the candidates and possibly save the party from spending millions of shillings in the primaries.

Of concern during the meeting was the hotly contested Mombasa governor race that has seen Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and businessman Suleiman Shahbal emerge as front runners.

The party had moved to resolve an impasse that saw the two politicians disagree on the method of picking the party’s flagbearer.

Mr Nassir had endorsed the use of opinion polls, which showed him as the leading candidate, whereas Mr Shahbal and his team demanded that the candidates be subjected to the ballot.

The development follows a statement by ODM National Elections Board chairperson Catherine Muma last week that the party will conduct the nominations through universal suffrage with registered party members allowed to participate in their respective electoral areas.

In the past, ODM primaries have been marred by chaos and claims of ballot stuffing with some aspirants accusing the party’s top leadership of favouritism and interfering with the party register to exclude opponents.

Apart from the nominations headache, Raila has to avert a fallout in regions where the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition party affiliate outfits will field candidates.

Notably, even before parties such as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee, Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance, and Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic party commence their primaries, they are already dogged by a myriad of issues.

They include missing names from the party register, and divergent opinions on the methods to be used in picking candidates, further casting doubt on whether the outfits will be able to conduct free and fair nominations.