Kenya’s dominant opposition party the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by former prime minister Raila Odinga, announced Thursday it was formally quitting the National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition that backed Odinga’s presidential candidature in 2017, bringing to an end more than three years of political bickering that threatened to derail his bid for the presidency in next year’s election.
ODM’s exit, coming days after similar moves by two of the other four Nasa parties, technically means that Mr Odinga can now negotiate a new coalition for his anticipated fifth presidential bid without offending the law governing political parties.
Mr Odinga’s former coalition partners, including his running mate in the past two elections Kalonzo Musyoka, had accused him of betrayal, citing the terms of a memorandum of understanding that suggested he would forfeit his ambitions and back one of them in 2022.
More recently, their parties have been locked in a bitter dispute over the sharing of state funds given to political parties based on parliamentary strengths.
Under the rules governing the political parties’ fund, which doesn’t benefit coalitions directly, only the ruling Jubilee Party and ODM qualified for the disbursements.
To avoid an acrimonious falling out and leave the door open for a possible reunion in another political formation, ODM last week acceded to the demands of its former coalition partners offered them half of the about Ksh300 million ($27.3 million) it was allocated.
ODM, for its part, says it is courting new allies to support Mr Odinga’s candidature in the 2022 presidential election in which he and Deputy President William Ruto are the early front runners.
It expects to revive coalition talks with Jubilee that were recently paused to reportedly allow the ruling party time to address its internal wrangling, which has deepened with the defection of many of its members to the breakaway United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
But a coalition between ODM and the ruling party still presents Mr Odinga’s best hope of slowing the UDA momentum and gaining a foothold in a region that has voted overwhelmingly for his rival in the last three elections.
On Wednesday, he appeared at a party hosted by media mogul S.K. Macharia for local artistes in Murang’a where a number of politicians pledged to campaign for him in Mt Kenya.
Speculation has been rife that President Uhuru Kenyatta, who hails from the region but is ineligible for re-election in 2022, intends to endorse Mr Odinga’s candidature.
The former prime minister hasn’t given up on his former allies in Nasa either.
He has been seen to be particularly keen on getting Mr Musyoka, the Wiper party leader, back on his side due to the considerable political clout the former still enjoys in parts of Eastern and Coast regions.