What you need to know:
- Ms Seei started trending on social media platforms as soon as she announced her candidacy in a Twitter post on September 28, a day after Dr Ruto announced his Cabinet picks
- Businessman Tim Kipchumba, another aspirant for the seat, has also featured prominently in the Murkomen succession politics
The entry of outspoken rights activist Jerotich Seei in the Elgeyo-Marakwet senatorial race has sparked excitement in a race that has attracted at least 30 aspirants, with some United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party leaders endorsing her candidacy.
Ms Seei, who was actively involved in the Linda Katiba campaign movement against proposed changes to the Constitution under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), is seen in some quarters as the best choice to succeed Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.
Mr Murkomen was nominated by President William Ruto for Transport, Roads and Public Works Cabinet secretary
Businessman Tim Kipchumba, another aspirant for the seat, has featured prominently in the Murkomen succession politics.
Ms Seei started trending on social media platforms as soon as she announced her candidacy in a Twitter post on September 28, a day after Dr Ruto announced his Cabinet picks.
“WaKenya: we have worked hard together to promote the rule of law and improve our lives. I am ready to serve as Senator for Elgeyo Marakwet county building from the bottom up,” she posted, drawing mixed reactions.
Her declaration, with a UDA campaign poster, was swiftly followed by an endorsement from Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, who is also the National Assembly deputy Speaker.
“Jerotich Seii is a vocal human rights defender and was part of the Linda Katiba movement,” Ms Shollei wrote on social media.
“I wholeheartedly endorse her candidature for the position of Senator Elgeyo Marakwet. With the support of Elgeyo Marakwet residents, Jerotich will be a welcome addition to Parliament.”
Outspoken Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale believes the young politician will fit Senator Murkomen’s shoes.
“Certainly, my opinion carries no electoral premium whatsoever in Elgeyo Marakwet but I think Jerotich Seii presents a worthy replacement for the cabinet bound Kipchumba Murkomen,” he wrote on Twitter.
Those who support Ms Seei, the daughter of veteran politician Tabitha Seei and retired Major John Seei, say she matches Mr Murkomen’s energy and delivery.
But her critics claim she is not in touch with the grassroots, using the popular Kenyan phrase “on the ground things are different”.
Her political foes also say her mother, who is associated with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), supported the Azimio la Umoja coalition in the last elections.
Whether this will affect her daughter’s campaigns remains to be seen, as Ms Seei subscribes to the UDA agenda.
There is also the question of clan politics, with predictions that this will largely determine the next senator.
Endorsements count for little
Elgeyo Marakwet also demonstrated in the last election that endorsements count for little, after two candidates won on independent tickets after losing in UDA nominations in April.
UDA has been urged not to interfere with the election of the next Senator by endorsing a candidate, and party leaders and Mr Murkomen have been cautioned about this.
Others in the crowded race include former assembly Speaker Albert Kochei; ex-MPs William Kisang (Marakwet West) and Daniel Rono (Keiyo South); Soy MCA Jonah Tanui; and Lawrence Mutwol. Others are Mr Kipchumba, former nominated MCA Neddy Kiptoo, and Eliud Kiptoo.
Keiyo South MP Gideon Kimaiyo and Marakwet East MP Kangogo Bowen asked UDA to allow locals to exercise their democratic right in the by-election, whose date is yet to be declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
“Those who will choose their next senator are the people of Elgeyo Marakwet County. Those thinking that we will sit in Nairobi and decide the candidate should forget … We also urge Senator Murkmomen not to favour anyone,” Mr Kimaiyo said.
During a weekend function, Senator Murkomen promised not to interfere with the election.
Ms Tabitha Seei has welcome her daughter’s candidacy, and told Nation.Africa that her daughter is qualified for the seat.
Mrs Seii, who sought the governor’s seat in the last elections, also dismissed reports that she was in the race for the Senate seat, saying she had retired from contesting elective seats.
“I am happy for her and wish her the best. She is clear-minded, calculative, persistent in her goals and she can multi-task,” she told Nation.Africa by phone.
“I strongly believe she is the right person to champion the interests of the people of Elgeyo-Marakwet County in the Senate.”
She added: “In our family, we cherish democracy and we rarely discuss politics nor let politics divide us.
“We are democratic and I can’t dictate which political party she will contest on, even though I support the other political side.”