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 of its candidates Christopher Karani (Ugenya) and Irshad Sumra (Embakasi South), ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohamed 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 in which he congratulated the winners and lauded voters for demonstrating political maturity.
âThe people have spoken in favour of politics of accommodation, tolerance, reason and embracing each other and the wider national agenda.Â We applaud this,â he stated on Saturday.
He praised supporters of Mr Raila Odinga’s party, who took part in campaigns and voted, for maintaining peace throughout.
âThrough this, our continuing march into a truly democratic nation has been enriched,â 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.
Mr Mohamed said the President’s decision made the by-elections a friendly contest among allies. David Ochieng (Movement for Democracy and Growth) won in Ugenya while Julius Mawathe (Wiper Democratic Movement) won in Embakasi South.
Although they were handed direct nominations and party tickets for the by-election, Mr Karan and Mr Sumra fell short of the partyâs expectations.
In Ugenya, Mr Ochieng of the little-known MDG, which he founded after leaving ODM in 2017, trounced Mr Karan by getting 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 votes cast.
In Embakasi South, Mr Mawathe won the seat by garnering 21,628 votes against Mr Sumra’s 7,988 votes.
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.
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 ODM’s preferred candidates is anything to go by, it will need to exercise caution in future to ensure it picks the peopleâs 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 partyâs candidate.
The other flaw in the ODM campaigns was that candidates and campaign teams appeared to rely more on political rallies than on engaging voters at a personal level.
Mr Wandayi said the party was unshaken by the loss but admitted that changes needed to be made to prevent such outcomes in the future.
Although he could not immediately pinpoint what he thought worked against the orange party, he said an audit was necessary.
“The party must carry out an urgent and in-depth independent inquiry into what led to the loss of the Ugenya seat,” he said in remarks issued before Mr Mohamed’s statement.