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Kenya Opposition Debates Candidate Selection Process


Kenya’s presidential and parliamentary elections will take place in December this year. Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki will most likely face a candidate from the main opposition party, ODM-Kenya. But first ODM-Kenya must choose its flag bearer by this Saturday from a plethora of candidates. There is a controversy between those who want to pick the party’s presidential candidate using the delegate system and those who prefer the consensus process. The party’s nine presidential aspirants will Thursday go before a council of elders to work out a compromise.

William Ruto is one of the candidates competing for the nomination of ODM-Kenya. He told VOA why he would prefer the consensus process.

“I have absolutely no preference. But going by the circumstances that obtained in our party and in the country, I think the best way out of the current state is to have a consensus position on the candidate for the ODM presidential ticket,” he said.

Ruto said among the problems confronting the party is the fact that ODM-Kenya is a new party without yet the means to go through a nomination process.

“We do not have yet the structures that can sustained a nomination exercise. We tried to match the structures of the founding parties. That exercise did not succeed, giving the indication that we still have a lot of teething problems in the ODM. And therefore, I do not think we have the wherewithal and the capacity to come with delegates that can participate in a nomination exercise,” Ruto said.

Critics of the consensus process, which uses party elders or through the consensus of all the candidates to choose the party's presidential candidate, say it is not truly democratic. But Ruto disagrees.

“I don’t think it is undemocratic. You can say it is less democratic than a candidate that is nominated by delegate system. But our party currently is plagued by many things. One, there are people who believe that the people leadership is bias; two, there are people who believe that the party secretariat is bias; three, there are people who believe that the harmonization exercise was manipulated to favor a certain candidate,” he said.

Ruto said some in the party also believe the delegates, who are supposed to nominate the candidate, have been manipulated. Given all these concerns, he said the nomination process may not be free and fair.

With the June 30 deadline a day away, Ruto said he was also concerned the disagreement over which process to use could hurt party unity.

“We are concerned more that this exercise may actually break the party into pieces. Yet the election is for us to lose. The people of Kenya are prepared for an ODM government; they have given indications and clear signals that however we arrive at the candidate they are prepared to vote for an ODM candidate. Our fear, however, is that in the process of trying to go through the rigmaroles of trying to get a candidate through the nomination by delegates we could actually split this party into pieces,” he said.

Ruto said the June 30 deadline to pick the party’s presidential candidate may no longer be feasible and could be extended to the end of July. He said the party would most likely have a bruising exercise if it chooses the delegate process.

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