Prime Minister Raila Odinga has dismissed as "false perception" that he is frustrating his deputy Musalia Mudavadi's bid to clinch the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) presidential ticket.
In a statement, Mr Odinga, who is the ODM party leader, said Mr Mudavadi is free to contest the party's ticket saying he is "supportive" of plans to amend the ODM constitution to accommodate fair competition.
"....the Prime Minister is a democrat who recognises everyone’s right to exercise and enjoy his or her democratic rights and freedoms as laid out by the law. To this end, Hon. Mudavadi is quite in order to seek to be the ODM Presidential flag bearer," said National Director of Communications, The Raila Odinga for President Secretariat Barrack Muluka Friday.
The PM said the move to change the nomination rules would open the door for other qualified party members to challenge him in a contest for the presidential ticket.
On Tuesday, ODM secretary general Anyang’ Nyong'o said the party will amend the controversial section 6.2.1 of its constitution that states the party leader will be the automatic presidential candidate.
He was speaking after submitting the necessary compliance documents to the Registrar of Political Parties.
The PM also said he was open to Mr Mudavadi's proposal that the nominations be conducted at the County level as opposed to a National Delegates Conference (NDC) that is favoured by the former's allies.
However, Mr Odinga said any amendment to the party's constitution must be done according to the law and that the Political Parties Act is clear on this procedure.
He said ODM had already notified the Registrar of Political Parties of its intention to change the rules but it could not wait for this process before presenting registration documents to beat the April 30 deadline. Such a move, said Mr Odinga, would lead to ODM's deregistration.
"The registrar is supposed to cause a notice of intent to amend the constitution to be published in the Kenya Gazette within 14 days of receipt of the notice.
"Thereafter, a period of thirty days must lapse (Article 20. d of the Act), during which the party shall receive proposals from the public. The amendment process will then proceed, as laid out in Party instruments," said the statement.
Mr Odinga maintained that the Mudavadi camp that was pushing for the amendment was cognizant of the procedure to be followed and it was mischievous of them to cry foul at this stage.
"Surely, those who initiated the amendment process that is now on going are not strangers to these legal requirements?" wondered the PM.
He pointed out that those out to bulldoze the changes, without deference to the party's constitution, were being high-handed and dictatorial.
"We restate that amendment of a Party’s Constitution needs to be done in a sober, free and democratic manner. It should not be done under threats and intimidation. Intimidating people is itself of course the highest manifestation of dictatorship.
"Let Kenyans judge for themselves who is being high handed and dictatorial in this matter. It should not be done with a gun placed against people’s heads as is being done," said Mr Odinga.
He said were the party to be deregistered by acceding to Mr Mudavadi's immediate demands "there will be no party ticket to compete for".
The PM said there should be no "apprehension" on the part of those who harbour presidential hopes within the party and that the relevant Party organs should be left to work towards "placing before the National Delegates Conference for consideration, the prayers that Hon. Mudavadi has made".
He said despite being demonised by his detractors he had "continued to exercise Stately restraint" and cautioned ODM members not to "fall victim" to outside forces out to destabilise the party.
"We are aware of external forces that have been at work since sometime last year, seeking to infiltrate and rock the Party from within. These forces remain adamantly at work."
The PM said ODM was aware of the external forces' activities in the country but urged party faithful to give them short shrift.
Mr Odinga maintained that ODM remains the only "democratic political party in Kenya" since its presidential contest was open to all qualified members.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Mudavadi met New Ford Kenya leader Soita Shitanda and Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale for three hours as speculation intensified that he was considering ditching ODM.
The meeting at Mr Mudavadi’s residence in Nairobi’s Riverside estate came only hours after he accused the Orange party of betrayal for submitting its constitution the registrar before amending it to provide for competitive nomination of the presidential candidate.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In an earlier version of this article, we had inadvertently referred to Mr Muluka as the ODM National Director of Communications. We have since established that his correct title is: National Director of Communications, The Raila Odinga for President Secretariat. The error is regretted.