Former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra (left), ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna and National Election Board Chair Judith Pareno at Orange House in Nairobi at a past event in January.[File] ODM may abandon universal suffrage in conducting party primaries through Electoral College system, in what party think tanks see as putting new wine in new wine skin. The new system of picking candidates for the party in elections by use of delegates instead of elections at polling stations may be a reality if ODM adopts a report by a task-force.The report was represented to party leader Raila Odinga on Monday at a Nairobi hotel when he chaired a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.The task-force, chaired by lawyer Catherine Muma, argues that the current system (universal suffrage) was archaic and often resulted in violence, voter bribery beside being an expensive affair. The team was of the opinion that if the Orange outfit trusted delegates to elect grassroots and national officials, it would also be okay if the delegates picked candidates.
ODM also relies on Electoral College, National Delegates Convention (NDC), to pick its presidential candidate, but its law requires all the other five elective positions use universal suffrage.“ODM should consider using the Electoral College nominations system as it is more cost effective and is less amenable to infiltration by its opponents, compared to universal suffrage systems, which is mostly associated with violence. The Electoral College system also ensures that only strong candidates are nominated,” the report states.It adds: “The adoption of this electoral system will not necessitate any significant amendment to the party’s constitution; nor will it entitle heavy financial outlay in the operationalisation of any new system come the next electoral cycle; plus, it will cost significantly less than the current system.”If the party top decision-making organ embraces the proposal, then about 58 delegates will pick the ODM’s nominee for MCA position, with the same number, being constituency delegates, picking MP nominee.For Governor, Senator and Women Rep positions, the number will depend on constituencies per county. For instance, Nairobi, with 17 constituencies, will have about 986 delegates, while a county like Lamu or Isiolo, with just two constituencies, will have 156 delegates.The task-force on the audit of the ODM party’s performance in the 2017 General Election was constituted following a resolution of the Party’s NEC held on February 22, last year, and ratified by the party’s National Governing Council (NGC) in the meeting of February 23, last year.The four-member task-force was appointed on March 8, last year, and consisted of Ms Muma (chair), members Lawrence O Gumbe, Alfelt Gunda, Irshad Sumra and Tony Moturi as an ex-officio member.It was to examine the party’s performance in the last elections and come up with recommendations on ways of strengthening its electoral processes to enhance its performance in future elections.Whereas members believe that the party has a big following, the task-force said members also raised concerns that the party was not well organised and had not invested in the deliberate mobilisation and sensitisation of its membership as the most important tool for political negotiations at all levels.“The ODM party primaries have been described as the biggest vice of the party. They have been blamed for the weakening of the party, and the loss of many good members of the party. The party elections are thought to lack credibility and do not meet the standards of being free, fair and democratic,” the report stated.
On the decline
The ODM electoral performance has declined over the years, with the party having moved from 100 of 210 MPs in 2007, to 78 of 290 MPs in the 2013 elections, and finally to 58 of 290 in the 2017 elections.There has been a similar decline across all elective cadres. In the 2013 and 2017 General Elections, under the Constitution of Kenya 2010, ODM experienced declines in the number of elected governors (from 16 in 2013, to 13 in 2017).The number of elected Women Reps declined from 15 in 2013, to 11 in 2017, while that of elected MCAs reduced from 382 of 1,450 in 2013, to 333 of 1,450 in 2017.The only increase was among the number of elected Senators that went up from 11 in 2013 to 13 in 2017.Members interviewed considered the ODM elections a sham that led to the party’s losing strong party members. “The greatest vice of ODM is the rigged electoral system for conducting the party primaries,” said one interviewee.ODM allegedly nominated people who did not even belong to the party, thereby causing loyal members to be disgruntled.This “oversight” could be blamed on the primary problem of identifying party members or lack of a register.