ODM shrugs off underdog tag to retain Siaya seat

PHOTO | TOM OTIENO Siaya County Governor-elect Cornel Rasanga displays his winner’s certificate after trouncing his rival, Mr William Oduol, in the by-election on October 17, 2013.

What you need to know:

  • Mr Rasanga won 62.17 per cent of the votes with 107,737 while Mr Oduol had 64,106 votes or 37 per cent of the ballots
  • Among the possible candidates the party had its eye on were former permanent secretary Kerry Orege and former ambassador to the US Elkana Odembo

ODM turned the tide from being an underdog in the race for the Siaya governor’s seat and won the by-election resoundingly.

A survey commissioned by the party before the poll that showed New Agenda Party of Kenya’s William Oduol was way ahead in the popularity stakes had caused panic among the ODM ranks.

To make matters worse, some MPs from Siaya rejected Mr Cornel Rasanga’s candidature on the basis of the survey.

The poll, conducted by Infotrak Research Consulting, gave Mr Oduol a 14-point margin over Mr Rasanga, with 48 per cent of the 712 respondents saying they would vote for Mr Oduol.

Mr Rasanga came second, with 34 per cent of those polled.

After the poll, two options were mooted — bringing Mr Oduol into the fold or conducting fresh nominations.

But results released by the electoral commission on Thursday night showed a totally different picture.

Mr Rasanga won 62.17 per cent of the votes with 107,737 while Mr Oduol had 64,106 votes or 37 per cent of the ballots. Independent candidate Winja Migudo polled 1,446 votes.

A win for Mr Oduol would have been a slap in the face for party leader Raila Odinga and could have sent signals of a possible loosening of his grip on Luo-Nyanza politics.

Mr Oduol confirmed to the Saturday Nation that he was approached by the ODM hierarchy to abandon his quest for the seat in exchange for an unknown position.

“I attended a meeting at Orange House and ODM asked me to drop my bid for other positions which they did not specify but I told them we would meet at the ballot,” he said.

TESTED THE WATERS

When he turned down the offer, some MPs tested the waters at public rallies by hinting at fresh nominations.

Among the possible candidates the party had its eye on were former permanent secretary Kerry Orege and former ambassador to the US Elkana Odembo.

But some officials felt this option would be unfair to Mr Rasanga, who though his election was nullified by the High Court, was not cited for electoral malpractice.

Party chief executive Magerer Langat, who was among those who stood by Mr Rasanga, said: “It is like stealing a cow and coming back to rob the farmer of the calf.”

With days to the ballot, ODM pulled out all the stops to recapture the seat.

A decision was taken to ride on the personality of Mr Odinga, who has a near fanatical following in the county.

The campaign team led by Ugenya Senator James Orengo crafted messages to the effect that the by-election was a Jubilee and Cord affair and that the Siaya voters could help Mr Odinga win the battle.

To drive the message home, ODM MPs and senators from several parts of the county set up camp in Siaya.

Former Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya agrees that painting the election as a Cord-Jubilee affair turned the tables on Mr Oduol.

“ODM realised that in Siaya, even the most popular candidate can be voted out simply by painting them as anti-Raila and that is what they did to Mr Oduol,” he said.

At several political rallies, Cord deputy minority leader Jakoyo Midiwo said it was crucial for ODM to maintain its numerical supremacy in the Council of Governors.

The Jubilee-Amani Coalition had 23 governors each. Mr Rasanga’s re-election restored Cord’s one-man advantage at 24.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.