The contest for the Bomet senatorial seat is heating up ahead of party primaries, with a picture emerging of a four-horse race.
Dr Christopher Langat, the incumbent, faces a tight race for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket in his bid to secure a second term.
Mr Wilson Sossion, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) nominated MP, and Nairobi-based lawyer Hillary Sigei are giving Dr Langat a run for his money, with the race shaping up as a fight of titans.
Whoever wins the UDA ticket will face off with Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat, who has a direct party ticket as he makes the third stab at the seat.
“I am laying the groundwork for the Senate campaign with the confidence that the people will vote for the candidates on the basis of issues and not political waves that came into play in the past,” Mr Salat said.
Mr Salat expressed confidence that the next General Election will be free and fair, unlike in the past when he questioned how the electoral agency IEBC managed the polls, citing a bungled vote tallying process.
“The three candidates seeking UDA ticket have activated their campaign machinery ahead of the party nominations in what is proving to be a highly contested and divisive vote. It is a case of do or die for the protagonists,” said Mr Kiprono Langat, a UDA supporter.
The IEBC’s ongoing voter registration is the latest battleground for aspirants.
Apart from mounting billboards in major trading centres, the aspirants are campaigning on vernacular radio stations and are using church functions and funerals to rally their supporters to register as voters before the February 6 dateline set by IEBC.
Dr Langat and Mr Sossion are striving to catch the eye of Deputy President William Ruto, accompanying him to rallies in Narok, Nakuru, Kericho, Kirinyaga and Nairobi counties.
The politicians are aware that loyalty to the DP will influence voting patterns in party primaries in the region.
“I’m confident that I will deliver both the UDA nomination and the final race on August, 9, 2022. My record on oversight of the county government and representation in the Senate speaks for itself and are my main pillars in the re-election bid,” Dr Langat said in an interview.
Dr Langat, who once headed the Senate’s Education Committee, is serving his first term after beating Prof Wilfred Lessan in the 2017 Jubilee Party nominations and subsequently defeating Mr Salat in the General Election.
Mr Sossion, a former secretary-general of the teachers’ union Knut, stands out as the only ODM leader in the Rift Valley, having been nominated to Parliament to represent Kenyan workers in line with the constitutional provisions on representation.
“I have served notice to my party (ODM) that I will be seeking the senatorial position on a UDA ticket. UDA enjoys more than 90 per cent of voter support in the county and there is no way I can swim against the tide and hope to survive,” he said.
Mr Sossion sought to dispel claims that he had already defected to UDA, saying he was exercising his democratic right by preparing the ground to change parties at a time provided for by the Political Parties Act.
The MP’s past political affiliation has also been exploited by his opponents, who argue that he was seeking to ride on the UDA political wave when his allegiance is to another party, a claim he has spiritedly dismissed.
Mr Sigei, for his part, said the Senate position is not all about providing oversight on county governments but also legislating to the benefit of the people and ensuring the two levels of government adopt policies and programmes to boost the economy and create employment opportunities.
“One of my key assignments (if elected) will be to fix the level and impact on representation of the county at the national level. That is an area where the Bomet Senate representation is not felt at the moment,” Mr Sigei said.
The lawyer, who is making his first stab at elective politics, wants to ride on the youth, who form the bulk of voters, to win in UDA primaries.
“I will roll out programmes for the youth, seek to raise investments through the bottom-up economic model, promote sports and related opportunities besides enhancing oversight at the county level to ensure resources are utilised in impactful programmes,” he said in an interview with the Nation.
Prof Lessan, the former Bomet senator, had not been active in politics since he lost the seat to Dr Langat in the last General Election.
Of the five constituencies in Bomet, Konoin and Chepalungu have produced senators in the past two General Elections, while Sotik, Bomet Central and Bomet East have not.
While both Dr Langat and Mr Sigei are from Chepalungu, Mr Sossion hails from Bomet Central.