Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Tuesday, 03 Jan 2017 19:13 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
There is concern among deputy president William Ruto's supporters that he would seek to impose candidates on the Jubilee Party for key gubernatorial, senatorial and parliamentary seats in the Rift Valley. The fears were triggered by Sunday's decision by the DP during New Year celebrations at his Sugoi home where he asked a leading aspirant for the Baringo gubernatorial seat, Mr Simon Chelugui, to step down for the incumbent Benjamin Cheboi.
During the event, the DP asked Mr Chelugui, the director of National Gambling and Betting Board, to shelve his gubernatorial ambitions and instead run for the Senate seat against incumbent Gideon Moi. Mr Chelugoi was one of Governor Cheboi's main opponents for the seat, and his pullout from the race leaves the governor in pole position to win re-election. The governor's remaining challenger is Stanley Kiptis, the Kenya National Union of Teachers Eldama Ravine Executive Secretary.
Mr Chelugoi is joining a Senate race in which no viable contender had emerged to face Mr Moi. The Jubilee (United Republican Party) candidate in the 2013 election was Reverend Jackson Kosgei, who has retired from elective politics. Mr Moi, who is the leader of Kanu, has posed a major threat to the DP's dominance in Rift Valley in recent months, and the two politicians' allies have repeatedly clashed in Baringo County, which with Pokot County are the Moi family's remaining dominions the DP is seeking to wrest from their control.
According to interviews with political analysts from the region, the DP's open appeal to Mr Chelugui to drop out of the governorship race has upended months of assurances that he would remain neutral in local races in Kericho, Nandi, Baringo, Bomet, Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu counties to enable the Jubilee Party to conduct free and fair nominations. Party supporters had largely heeded the DP's assurances, but his open play in Baringo and rumoured interference in other races will change the political dynamic on the ground as party nominations near.
The Kericho gubernatorial election is one of the region's hotly-contested seats, and Mr Ruto is perceived as favouring the ouster of incumbent governor Paul Chepkwony (popularly known as Timbilwet). Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat, a close ally of the DP, is seen as Mr Ruto's favourite. Former Roads minister Franklin Bett, Eng. Fred Kirui of Kenya Ports Authority and Richard Langat, the former managing trustee of the National Social Security Fund are also in the race, although the latter is seen by observers as positioning himself as a potential running mate to one of the top aspirants.
In September and October, the DP repeatedly sought to assure voters that he would remain above local contests. Speaking at Mogogosiek in Konoin in October, he addressed fears by the residents that he was supporting deputy speaker in the National Assembly, Dr Joyce Laboso, for the governorship position. Incumbent governor Isaac Ruto will seek re-election on his own newly-formed Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) but the Jubilee ticket has attracted the interest of Dr Laboso, former Konoin MP Julius Kones and a host of other aspirants. “Let no one lie to you that we as Jubilee leaders have preferred candidates for any seat even here in Bomet, it is the electorate who will pick candidates for Jubilee," the DP had said.
Perceptions that the DP was supporting Dr Laboso had angered supporters of Dr Kones, the runners-up in URP nominations in 2013 who is also an old ally of the DP. With confusion over whether Dr Kones would be given the ticket, Governor Ruto has moved to embrace the former MP, who is seen as his main opponent in next year’s general election, by cementing the fears that Jubilee nominations could be 'rigged'.
The DP's allies have helped him spread the message of his neutrality in the races. Early in October, cabinet secretary for Energy Charles Keter appeared with Eng. Kirui, at a harambee in Kericho that locals saw as part of the DP's efforts to undercut perceptions that he would favour Hon. Lagat for the position.
A source who was present at the New Year party at the DP's residence also reported that he had asked residents of Elgeyo Marakwet to support the re-election of senator Kipchumba Murkomen. "There is anxiety that leaders will be imposed on us, and the DP better play his cards well because that is what would open the region to Gideon Moi, CORD and NASA," said a URP activist from Iten.