ODM may face an uphill task in retaining Homa Bay governor seat should the Supreme Court uphold the nullification of the August 8 election.
The Court of Appeal in Kisumu on July 19 upheld the decision by High Court judge Joseph Karanja to nullify the reelection of Governor Cyprian Awiti and Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata. They vied on an ODM ticket.
Justice Karanja on February 20 ruled that the IEBC failed to conduct a credible election.
Former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, who vied for the seat, successfully petitioned the election.
Should a by-election be held, the party might face a litmus test in retaining the seat due to changing political dynamics in the county. The dynamics include regional balance, 2022 ambitions, service delivery by the current regime, and ODM interests.
As residents wait for the Supreme Court decision, the Raila Odinga-led party is in a balancing act on the choice of their candidate.
The majority of the residents have expressed their displeasure with Awiti's performance since he became governor.
Some Luo council of elders in the county led by Joram Okola (secretary general), Odak Mbaka (chairman) and Opere Onimo (member) have already urged the party to hand over the ticket to a different candidate.
They argue that most residents are bitter with Awiti because "his administration has failed to deliver on development".
Okola said ODM would easily loose the seat should Awiti run against Magwanga, but some ODM supporters say they can't disappoint Raila.
“ODM retention of the seat lies on the candidate they will present. If they give it to Awiti, then I fear Magwanga will easily go with it due his strong campaign against the county's under-performance,” Okola said.
Ahead of last year's polls, Magwanga discredited Governor Awiti’s administration on service delivery, while he boasted of prudent utilisation of the NGCDF in his constituency.
Awiti garnered 210, 173 votes, while Magwanga got 189,060 in the nullified polls.
He has, however, managed to marshal a good number of voters on his side, after the court decisions.
“The voices of the majority have been heard. We won but they snatched us our victory,” Magwanga said after the High Court decision.
Homa Bay political analyst Mark Okang’ agreed with the elders and said residents would likely cast a protest vote against ODM if he gets the ticket.
“If I were Awiti and true supporter of ODM, I would honourably leave the ticket to someone else to avoid upsetting the party,” Okang’ said.
He argued Magwanga now knows Awiti's weaknesses and would capitalize on them, should he carry ODM's flag in the county.
“No wonder Magwanga says he is ready to face Awiti anytime. He wants the by-election be held with speed,” Okang’ said.
He said ODM should to conduct fresh nominations or directly pick another candidate, if it is to retain the seat.
The political analyst noted residents want a total transformation in development and they are likely to vote in anybody who runs against Awiti.
Okang’ and the elders disregard the 2013 pre-election pact, which shared political posts among the three regions in the county.
In the pact, it was agreed that governor post would be taken by Rachuonyo region, a senator from Suba, while Homa Bay would take the woman representative and deputy governor slots.
Constituencies in Rachuonyo are Kasipul (57,344 votes), Karachuonyo (84,004) and Kabondo Kasipul (49,432), while Suba has two which — Suba North (51,454) and Suba South (46,499). Homa Bay region's constituencies are Rangwe (52,516), Homa Bay Town (50,570) and Ndhiwa (85,056).
In the 2013 and 2017 elections, residents abided by the pact and voted Governor Awiti (Rachuonyo) and Orata (Homa Bay), Gladys Wanga (woman rep) and Moses Kajwang' (senator).
Magwanga comes from Kasipul, which is considered to be the same region as where Awiti hails from.
Ahead of the August 8 election, Magwanga, who ran as independent candidate, also appeared to have aligned to the pact when the picking his running mate, Joshua Orero. He is from Ndhiwa (Homa Bay region).
Former NSSF boss Fred Rabong’o (Suba region) and Jessica Juma (Homa Bay region), who stood for senator and woman representative respectively, supported Magwanga.
Rachuonyo and Ndhiwa are the vote rich constituencies. This would make Awiti, who hails from Karachuonyo constituency and Orata (Ndhiwa) sit pretty, knowing that they have full support from those areas.
In 2013, the duo got overwhelming support from all the eight constituencies but faced an up-hill task to marshal votes outside their backyards last year.
Magwanga managed to win against Awiti in Kabondo Kasipul, Rangwe, Homa Bay Town, Suba North and Suba South constituencies.
But Awiti got clear wins in Kasipul, Ndhiwa and Karachuonyo.
The pact has, however, been disputed by residents and a number of sitting MPs, who have governor ambitions in 2022. Wanga and John Mbadi (Suba South) have already declared their interest in the office. They, including Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) and Millie Odhiambo (Suba North), have opposed the pact on grounds that it restricts leadership to a particular region and, therefore, violates the right to contest for political seats.
Former Homa Bay Majority leader Owino Ooro and political commentator Cosmus Kanyadudi, however, say Awiti will retain his seat.
Ooro says a common interest of politicians serving their second term in office and want to take over in 2022 would want Awiti to complete his term. He said the ODM dominance factor will not allow MPs to go against the party candidate, even if it will be Awiti.
“They might have criticized Awiti's leadership but when it comes to who should be governor until 2022, they are bound behind Awiti,” Ooro said.
Already, Wanga has dismissed resigning to stand for governor until 2022.
He adds that Raila factor is a major force that would influence the outcome of the polls.
“In the past two general elections, residents voted for ODM candidates right from the MPs to the governor. Why would Raila want a mixture of leaders after a by-election? Ooro posed.
Kanyadudi says Governor Awiti will win easily should ODM give him a direct ticket and Raila participates in the campaigns. Her says all the MPs from the county would also have to marshal support for Awiti in solidarity with the party.
“To repack and sell Awiti, especially after a dismal development performance, would be a bit expensive. But I know ODM brigades will camp in all corners of the county and ensure he retains the seat,” Kanyadudi said.
He, however, recommends that ODM conducts fresh nominations or hand the ticket one of the aspirants who participated in the 2017 primaries.
The aspirants were Nairobi businessman Sammy Wakiaga, business consultant Enosh Bolo and Kanyadudi.
Wakiaga, Kanyadudi and Bolo dropped their ambition after Awiti was controversially announced the winner after the party nomination exercise.
“Fresh and credible nomination should be conducted to enable interested aspirants to participate. There some who remained loyal to the party and that’s why they didn’t seek other alternative tickets, despite the glaring irregularities during nomination,” Kanyadudi adds.
Hitherto, it’s easy to predict the dynamics since they may change.
Recently, Kaluma told Magwanga in his presence never to concentrate his energies in criticising Awiti on grounds that ODM may decide to give ticket to a different candidate, if an election is called.
“Tell residents what you will do for them. If you fight Awiti so much and no one else is given the ticket, then you will be defeated,” Kaluma said during a fundraiser in his constituency.