Big day for ODM aspirants in Nyanza stronghold

ODM holds its primaries in Nyanza counties today against the backdrop of violence that has rocked the region in the past one month.

The contests will pit Orange leader Raila Odinga’s close allies in a battle dubbed as a mini-general election to be held in Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori counties.

Primaries in Kisumu were called off after the returning officer Tom Okong’o said there was no elections board to oversee the exercise.

Being an ODM stronghold, it is largely believed that the winner of the Orange party ticket will have a head start in the August 8 General Election.

Though the ODM leader and party’s national elections board have promised free, fair and credible polls, balancing between allies and popular aspirants could be a hard nut to crack.

READ: Raila Odinga promises fair ODM party primaries

Some of the politicians, according to political pundits could however get the senate or parliament ticket “because of their contributions in the party” and close ties to Mr Odinga.

Already, there are claims that some aspirants had acquired ballot papers that they were marking ahead of Monday’s exercise.

Kisumu deputy governor Ruth Odinga has however asked the National Elections Board, headed by Ms Judy Pareno, to probe the matter.

“The elections board must consider using special ballot papers preferably with different colours from those already used in other areas to block the fraudsters who may have illegally obtained ballot materials ahead of the nomination process,” the deputy governor said.

And as the primaries kick off, focus will be on various electoral units in the primaries.

In Migori, at least 200,000 ODM members will cast their ballot in a race in which Governor Okoth Obado is facing off with former Cabinet minister Ochillo Ayacko, former Sony Sugar MD Paul Odola and Mrs Ann Anyanga.

All the aspirants are confident of victory and were on Sunday having meetings with their agents asking them to be vigilant and guard against possible rigging.

But the party members are unsure if the primaries will end peacefully if the recent violence is anything to go by.

“We are crossing our fingers,” Mrs Mary Atieno, 39, said.

The primaries were to be conducted last Friday but the ODM headquarters rescheduled the exercise.

Mr Odola said leaders who engaged in violence should be disqualified.

Last Thursday, Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno recorded a statement at his local police station in connection with the violence that rocked his constituency. Several people were injured.

Another key figure in ODM party is its national chairman John Mbadi who is also not sitting pretty in his quest for re-election as Suba South MP.

Mr Mbadi is facing a tough challenge from Mr Odinga’s former aide as Prime Minister, Mr Caroli Omondi.

“I am confident of clinching the ODM ticket and send Mbadi home because he has not lived up to the expectations of the electorate,” Mr Omondi said.

But Mr Mbadi has downplayed Mr Omondi’s popularity, saying: “Caroli is being overrated for no apparent reason. I beat him during the last ODM primaries.”

In Siaya, the chairman of the Powerful Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, Mr Nicholas Gumbo, has also taken a risk to try his luck in the coveted governor seat.

The Rarieda MP has been endorsed by vocal Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo but still faces a tough fight to oust Governor Cornell Rasanga, who is banking on his incumbency.

Businessman William Oduol and former PS Carey Orege are also in the race, though Mr Oduol’s popularity in 2013 has been eaten by Mr Gumbo’s entry in the race.

In Homa Bay, Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga is causing incumbent governor Cyprian Awiti sleepless nights.

The duo are both close allies of Mr Odinga but their decision to battle it out for one position will end badly for one of them.

Businessman Sam Wakiaga’s influence across the County as well as his financial might can also not be downplayed.

Other contestants are Enosh Bolo and Cosmas Kanyadudi.

Bondo constituency, where Mr Odinga’s elder brother and family spokesman Dr Oginga is seeking to wrestle the seat from Gideon Ochanda, is also in focus.

If Dr Ochanda wins, he could complicate Dr Oginga’s political future.

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