How ODM beat the odds to win Bonchari parliamentary seat
Supporters of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party in Bonchari constituency in Kisii county flocked polling stations on Tuesday, voted in the by-election and propelled the party’s flag bearer, Pavel Robert Oimeke to victory.
County Party Chairman Kerosi Ondieki said security officers harassed, intimidated and arrested ODM supporters during campaigns but the candidate managed to win the seat despite the political hurdles the leaders, supporters and officials faced as they drummed up support for their candidate.
On Tuesday, area Returning Officer Benson Ambuko declared Oimeke MP-elect at Suneka National Government Constituency Development Fund ( NG-CDF) tallying centre after he garnered 8,049 votes to win against his closest rivals- Zebedeo Opore of Jubilee party, 7,279 and United Democratic Alliance ( UDA) candidate Teresa Bitutu Oroo, 6,964 in a hotly contested race.
Bitutu, who contested through the party allied to Deputy President William Ruto is the widow of former immediate area Member of Parliament John Oroo Oyioka and she and Oimeke, a former Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority ( EPRA) Managing Director vied for the first time unlike Opore, a former area legislator.
The official said ODM leaders and officials sensitized their supporters to turn up early at polling stations, vote for him and leave for their homes to wait for the results, a strategy he noted worked to the candidate’s advantage.
“ We believed in our supporters and the candidate. The party’s faithful heeded our piece of advice and that is how our candidate won with a reasonable margin against our competitors” Kerosi told People Daily on phone.
He also said party officials, leaders and supporters believe in the leadership of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s handshake partner and wanted to deliver the seat to make him feel part of the victory.
Kerosi, who is former Kisii County Assembly Speaker, said ODM candidates and leaders embraced door-to-door campaigns and convinced voters he was the best bet, adding they also relied on God’s divine intervention given that his rivals were equally strong and used the same strategy.
Lauding Bonchari residents for embracing peaceful campaigns, he said ODM abhors hooliganism, adding the party’s leadership had reported those who attacked supporters to the police and are expecting action to be taken against them for the victims to get justice.
The official noted Oimeke is the first and only ODM elected MP in Kisii County since none was elected in 2017 save for the county’s top leaders- governor James Ongwae, senator Sam Ongeri, Woman Representative, Janet Ong’era and several Members of the County Assembly.
“ I thank the Bonchari people for giving us the first Mp. I urge him to work and fulfill the pledges he made during the campaigns to improve their lives” Kerosi said, adding that the turnup is normally low during by-elections unlike general elections where voters vote for various leaders.
According to the Commission, Bonchari, which borders constituencies- South Mugirango, Bobasi and Kitutu South has 52,955 registered voters and 26,526 that translates to 50 percent turned up and voted. The constituency has four Wards- Bogiakumu, Bomorenda, Riana and Bomariba. Opore and Oimeke hail from Riana while Bitutu originates from Bomorenda.
At the tallying Centre, Ongwae commended Raila, Ong'era, Ongeri, Members of Kisii county assembly and ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna for working hard to deliver the seat under difficult circumstances.
He saluted Bonchari people for embracing democracy, stressing that Kisii people are peace-loving and that security officers can attest to that fact.
“Let us have clear democratic elections and espouse democracy in its entire manner. I left residents of Bonchari to decide who to elect. You have had a lot of shenanigans. In future, people should be allowed to exercise their democratic rights’ Ongwae said, stressing Oimeke was the best and had beaten strong candidates.
He added “ Pavel, you are the best. You beat strong candidates to win the seat”
Oimeke said he thanks God, ODM leaders, members of the county assembly and former area MP Charles Onyancha for helping him to win the seat, adding that the will of God prevailed.
“There was a huge deployment of police. You cannot force people against their will. It has to prevail” Oimeke said shortly after Ambuko declared him victorious and handed him a Certificate at the tallying Centre heavily manned by uniformed security officers.
He pledged to embrace development projects and work to improve peoples’ lives as he left the hall, which was skipped by several candidates, save for Jonah Ondieki, The National democracy candidate present.
Sifuna said ODM party does not need favors, adding it needs a level playing ground for it to win as he lauded Ongwae, Ongera and Ongeri for supporting Oimeke win the seat.
He lauded the RO and the entire IEBC team for attempting to address the challenges the party’s leaders raised during campaigns and voting.
Jonah onkendi, who vied through The new Democrats ( TND) trailed Oimeke, Opore and Bitutu with 1374 votes, Eric Oigo, national reconstruction alliance ( NRA) 1,169 while David Ogega, kenya Social congress bagged 939 respectively.
The rest – Jeremiah Atancha, Agano party, Mary Otara, UGM, Paul Matagaro, Mwangaza Tu, Charles Ndege, PPK, Kevin Mosomi, PDU, Margaret Gesare Nyabuto, Maendeleo Chapu Chapu and Victor Omanwa, party of Economic Democracy ( PED) performed dismally in the exercise said to marred with voter apathy, bribery and intimidation by security agents.
Nyabuto Onyambu, a political activist said top party leaders from big political parties never turned up to drum up support for their candidates since it could have created the impression they were fighting directly and instead allowed their foot soldiers to battle it out.
The activists noted the handshake's top partners skipped the campaigns, stressing the fielding of UDA’s candidate in the race was meant to test political waters ahead of the 2022 general election and a signal to locals that the ground was shifting from other parties.
“ Bitutu, who contested through the UDA ticket performed well given that she was making her debut in politics and it is a message to other big political parties to prepare for a stiff competition in next year’s general election” Onyambu said.
He commended the people of Bonchari for maintaining peace during campaigns, elections and announcement of results, stressing it was a sign of political maturity worth emulating in other areas.