ODM internal audit exposes manipulation in party primaries

ODM primaries

Voters scamper for safety after a group of youths caused chaos at Urudi Primary School in Nyakach constituency during ODM party primaries on April 19, 2022.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

An internal audit by ODM has revealed how the digital voting system deployed by the outfit in the run up to the August 9 polls was manipulated to hand victory to certain candidates.

Sunday Nation has learnt that opposition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday chaired a stormy Central Management Committee to discuss the performance of the party in the last general elections.

Mr Odinga and top party officials are said to have raised misgivings with the National Elections Board chaired by nominated Senator Catherine Mumma.

It emerged that some of the voting gadgets did not have security safeguards to prevent rigging. Some of the candidates are said to have colluded with party poll officials and took away the gadgets, then proceeded to vote for themselves.

According to an official statement released by the party after the meeting, Ms Mumma tabled a report on the party’s performance in the polls before she was taken to task by party officials.

“The meeting received a report of the performance of the party in the last general election from National Elections Board (NEB) which is chaired by Nominated Senator Catherine Mumma. The Committee also discussed matters pertaining the party, its growth and how to rejuvenate it going forward,” the party said in the statement.

An official who attended the meeting said some members were infuriated by the issuance of direct tickets to a majority of MPs who were defending their seats. The dolling of direct tickets was also widespread in the senate and governor race, especially in Nyanza and Western regions. Some members feel this could have disenfranchised some voters in the region.

In the governor race, it is only in Busia where the party conducted universal suffrage with the rest of other candidates in Nyanza and Western getting direct tickets. In the senate race, it is only in Kisumu where voters were allowed to pick their candidates

“Members expressed their displeasure about how primaries for MCAs were conducted. NEB admitted that the electronic gadgets failed. It was a sham,” said a top senior party official who attended the meeting.

“The board admitted that a candidate could take the gadget and vote for themselves several times,” added the source who sought anonymity. Ms Mumma did not respond to our queries by the time of going to press.

Another party official said the document presented by the election board was still in draft form and was still being worked on before it can be adopted by the party, with suggestions on how to improve the outfit’s nominations in future.

But National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed described the meeting as a routine engagement by top party officials while dismissing claims that it was stormy.

He disclosed that the party has planned another meeting this week to take a position on the rebel Members of Parliament. “I don’t think we experienced major issues in the primaries, because even in terms of numbers of elected leaders we made some improvement,” he said.

Mr Mohammed cited an improvement in the number of elected leaders under the party compared to 2017 polls. In 2017, ODM bagged 13 governor seats, 13 Senators and 11 Woman Representative positions across the 47 counties.

In the last poll, the outfit managed 15 governors, an increase by two. It, however, retained the number of senators. In the Woman Rep race its numbers reduced from 11 to nine.

In the National Assembly, the party won 73 seats up from 59 seats it got in the 2017 polls.

It is not the first time the outfit is questioning its internal systems in the running of party primaries. Ms Mumma was brought in after the 2017 polls to clean the mess in the party primaries.

ODM formed a five-member team that comprised Ms Mumma, Prof Lawrence Gumbe, Alfelt Mumbo, Abio Gunda and Irshad Sumra to review the previous election cycle and provide a path for more credible party primaries.

The team in its report said the past party primaries did not meet the threshold of a free and credible election.

“ODM party primaries have been described as the party's biggest vice. Party elections are thought to lack credibility and do not meet the standard of being free, fair and democratic,” the report read in part.

But even with the report and Ms Mumma picked as the chair of the election’s board, ODM top officials have admitted claims of rigging in the party primaries.

ODM Chairman John Mbadi is on record saying the 2022 primaries were worse than the previous ones.

“After 2017 we discovered that there were messes and we constituted a taskforce, recommendations of that taskforce were given to the same chair to implement. Her tenure was worse than that of Pareno,” Mr Mbadi was quoted saying after the August 9 polls.