6 April 2019

Kenya: ODM Accepts By-Election Losses

Leaders of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) on Saturday put on a brave face, acknowledging that its humiliating performance in the Ugenya and Embakasi South by-elections was a wakeup call.

Smarting from the embarrassing defeat dealt to candidates Christopher Karani (Ugenya) and Irshad Sumra (Embakasi South), ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohammed and Director of Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the party will, without a doubt, return to the drawing board to find out what went wrong.

Mr Mohamed issued a statement congratulating the winners and lauding voters for demonstrating political maturity.

"The people have spoken in favour of politics of accommodation, tolerance, reason and embracing each other and the wider national agenda. We applaud this," he stated.

He praised supporters of Mr Raila Odinga's party, who took part in campaigns and voted, for maintaining peace throughout.

"Through this, our continuing march into a truly democratic nation has been enriched," he said, and thanked President Uhuru Kenyatta for asking his Jubilee Party to pull out of the two mini polls in the spirit of the handshake.

He said the decision made the by-elections a friendly contest between familiar allies.

REVIEW

But even as the ODM officials embraced the results of the polls, they said the party will review its performance in the two by-elections to establish what could have been done differently.

Although they were handed direct nominations and party tickets for the by-election, Mr Karan and Mr Sumra fell short of the party's expectations.

Political pundits opine that the outcome of the polls could be an indicator of an emerging politically mature electorate and what to expect in future elections.

Both elections were peaceful and voters exercised sobriety and tolerance even after the results were announced.

THE RESULTS

In Ugenya, Mr David Ochieng of little-known Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG), which he founded after leaving ODM in 2017, trounced his Mr Karan by 4,223 votes, upsetting the political equation in a region where the orange party was dominant.

Mr Ochieng, a former MP in the constituency, garnered 18,730 votes against Mr Karani's 14,507 votes, out of the 33,342 total votes cast.

In Embakasi South, Wiper party candidate Julius Mawathe won the seat by garnering 21,628 votes to defeat ODM's Sumra who got 7,988 votes.

KEY ASPECTS

Political experts say ODM will need to review aspects including direct party nominations, which seem to have worked against it in the by-elections as voters looked beyond party affiliations and loyalty.

If the performance of the party's preferred candidates in the mini-polls is anything to go by, it will need to exercise caution in future polls to ensure it picks the people's best choices, above everything else.

Mr Odinga's party will also need to review campaigns, the lesson being the need to focus more on ideologies and deliverables as opposed to side shows and political bickering.

In the Ugenya by-election for instance, ODM campaign team leader James Orengo (Siaya Senator) devoted more time to attacking Deputy President William Ruto than he did to drumming up support for the party's candidate.

The other flaw in the ODM campaigns was that candidates and campaign teams appeared to have relied more on political rallies than on engaging voters at a personal level.

'UNSHAKEN'

Mr Wandayi maintained that the party was not shaken by the loss but admitted that changes needed to be made to prevent such outcomes in future polls.

Although he could not immediately pinpoint what he thought worked against the party, he said an audit was necessary.

"The party must carry out an urgent and in-depth independent inquiry into what could have led to loss of the Ugenya seat," he said in remarks issues before Mr Mohamed's statement.

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