Friday, March 16, 2012


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

To avoid the unmitigated disaster that followed the aftermath of Ford-Kenya elections in 1997, to avoid the fiasco that was KANU 2002 and the catastrophe that was ODM-Kenya in 2007, the Prime Minister and his men need to embrace robust internal democracy in ODM. Mr. Odinga’s political history is replete with examples of his failure to embrace intra-party democracy, what the Deputy Prime Minister’s challenge offers him, is an opportunity to confound his critics and prove his intra-party democratic bona fides finally. He needs to do this by acquiescing to an open, transparent and vigorous process to elect the party’s flag bearer, he needs to eschew giving lip service to party democracy and demonstrate that he wholeheartedly embraces it, without regard to the ultimate outcome.

In addition to confounding his critics, a strong and independent Musalia Mudavadi would go a long way toward re-branding ODM from being simply the party of Raila. The appeal of the party would only grow if it showed the maturity it would take to accommodate two top tier presidential candidates. It would also be much easier to expand the appeal of ODM to other areas of the country (outside its main support bases in Nyanza, Western, Coast and Nairobi), with Mudavadi as a credible presidential candidate, as opposed to simply being Odinga’s number two (witness Mudavadi’s recent forays to non-ODM areas in Nakuru, Kiambu and Nyahururu).

An internal primary would also serve to sharpen ODM’s message during the general election. If the process is a truly democratic and issue-oriented one (consider the Republican Primaries in the United States), then the party will have the opportunity to iron out ideological differences and streamline the party’s policy positions and overall message to the broader populace. This can only serve to strengthen the party’s position in the General Election.

The party primaries would also serve as a solid dress rehearsal for the general election. Consider if you will, the great benefits that accrued to Barack Obama from having the strong challenge from Hilary Clinton in 2008. Not only was Mr. Obama able to prove his political mettle, he was able to deal with his greatest perceived weakness (inexperience) early in the process; such that by the time his general election opponent tried to raise the issue, it had been completely blunted. His team was also able to refine its policy positions and message themes, as well as, streamlining is voter outreach system; all aspects of the campaign that worked to great effect on November 4th 2008.

The Prime Minster and his supporters should embrace internal democracy, not only to avoid the pitfalls of the past, but as it is the right thing to do, considering the potential benefits likely to accrue to the party from having a robust competition between Raila and Mudavadi.

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill


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