Jubilee will not field a candidate in the October 8 Migori Senate by-election, party secretary general Raphael Tuju announced on Sunday.
Mr Tuju said the decision was made “in the interest of the Building Bridges Initiative”, in reference to the March 9 pact between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga.
“The National Management Committee unanimously decided that the party will not field a candidate in the forthcoming by-election,” Mr Tuju said.
That, he added, is in keeping with a similar decision to support Wiper party’s Edith Nyenze for the Kitui West seat following the death of her husband Francis Nyenze, in the March 26 by-election.
Mrs Nyenze eventually emerged the winner.
The decision has come as a boost to the Orange party, which has set in motion the process of identifying a candidate for the seat left vacant following the death of Mr Ben Oluoch-Okello.
On Sunday, Nominated Senator Judith Pareno said the party’s National Elections Board is expected to meet and vet the hopefuls on Monday.
“Friday was the deadline for submission of the applications for the party ticket. NEB will meet to vet those who have applied, in line with the party constitution,” Ms Pareno said.
Among the hopefuls are former cabinet minister Ochillo Ayacko, former Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno, former Students Organisation of Nairobi University chairman David Osiany, former Migori MP John Dache Pessa and businessman Eddy Oketch.
Two members of the former senator’s family — Mr Willis Oluoch Okello and Mr Mark Okundi — have also presented their papers for the ODM ticket.
The plan to give a direct ticket to one of the aspirants has, in the meantime, angered a number of Migori politicians.
On Sunday, ODM chairman John Mbadi sought to clear the air as to why the decision was made.
“The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has given us strict timelines. The commission requires the list of candidates by July 26. Party organs allow us to opt for direct nomination,” Mr Mbadi said.
Observers say ODM opted for a direct nomination to avert chaos and violence associated with party primaries, especially in Nyanza.
Reliable party sources told the Nation that the party was mulling over giving Mr Ayacko the ticket.
During the burial of Mr Okello on July 9, Mr Odinga asked Mr Ayacko and Governor Okoth Obado to bury the hatchet.
Recent developments revolving around Mr Ayacko point to the fact he is privy to the ODM plan.
He recently turned down President Kenyatta’s ambassadorial nomination, saying he “wants to concentrate on serving the people of Migori as a ward representative, MP, senator or even governor”.
Last Wednesday, Mr Ayacko gave the clearest indication yet of being assured of an ODM ticket when he withdrew a petition in the Appellate Court challenging Mr Obado’s August 8, 2017 victory.
The petition was withdrawn just days to its determination.
Mr Ayacko, who filed the appeal after the High court upheld Mr Obado’s win, said he had taken the decision “out of respect for Mr Odinga”.
ODM enjoys a massive following in the region and the person who bags the party ticket has a headstart in any political race. The other hopefuls are not happy with the plan.
“ODM should be democratic. Let Migori people choose their candidate. The idea of sitting in a room to select a particular person will damage the party,” Mr Oketch said.
Mr John Magaiwa, a one-time ODM chairperson in Kuria region, said the party would be treading on a dangerous ground if it nominates its candidate directly.
“ODM has committed the mistake many times. Should the leadership issue a direct ticket, there will be disillusionment among voters,” Mr Magaiwa, who is also in the race, said.
ODM activist Matiko Bohoko, who is angling for Mr Odinga’s support, said the latter should go back to the 2013 pre-election agreement between the Kuria and Luo and endorse a Kuria for the seat.
Mr Bohoko, who unsuccessfully contested the Kuria West parliamentary seat, said by supporting a Kuria candidate, Mr Odinga, would foster peaceful coexistence in Migori County, “which is in line with the March 9 handshake”.