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Surprise as partyless newbies give Jubilee run for its money

By Titus Too | Published Sun, August 13th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 12th 2017 at 22:00 GMT +3
Turbo MP-elect Janet Sitienei Rotich at Eldoret National Polytechnic. She will represent the DP in Parliament. [Photo: Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Jubilee Party (JP) lost two seats in its stronghold of Uasin Gishu County, the backyard of Deputy President William Ruto, to an unlikely rival — independents.

The DP will now be represented in the National Assembly by an independent legislator following the election of Janet Rotich Sitienei as MP for Turbo constituency.

A strong wave of independent candidature swept across the country though JP managed to clinch majority of seats and will still command the tyranny of numbers in the 12th Parliament.

Surprisingly, the independent candidates exhibited a titanic political battle leading to their victory in Turbo and Ainabkoi constituencies.

Changing times

From single party era to multiparty democracy, the country is slowly embracing independent candidature for elective positions, a phenomenon that analysts welcome as a sign of maturing democracy.

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During the 2013 General Election, four independent candidates made their way to Parliament. They include Wesley Korir (Cherngany), John Serut (Mt Elgon), Gatobu Kinoti (Buuri) and Patrick Musimba in Kibwezi West.

In the just-concluded polls, a number of candidates chose to go independent right from the presidency down to the Member of County Assembly, many of them feeling disgruntled after the sham nominations by their respective parties.

It is worth noting that some candidates chose to go independent from the word go instead of being affiliated to the various political parties on offer.

To the shock of many, these candidates offered strong challenge to their fellow aspirants especially those in JP.

There were two independent gubernatorial candidates in Nandi County who gave a spirited challenge to the status quo during the polls.

Uasin Gishu County was perhaps one of the places where independent candidates gave JP a run for its money.

They even defied JP luminaries President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto who advocated for a six-piece suit. Uasin Gishu County Governor-elect Jackson Mandago who managed 193,140 votes had to put efforts to beat independent candidate and sole opponent Zedekiah Kiprop Bundotich, popularly known as Buzeki who had 148,121 votes.

Interestingly, Mandago is the only governor across the country who received endorsement of both the government under JP and the NASA separately during their campaigns at 64 Stadium in Eldoret.

Buzeki was second in primaries but was dissatisfied with the manner the primaries wre held and bolted out in protest. As an independent, he strongly challenged Mandago.

Uasin Gishu, a perceived JP stronghold will have two independent MPs. Sitienei (Turbo), who garnered 37,854 votes with Jubilee’s Kevin Okwara garnering 31,928 votes. Sitienei opted to run as independent candidate and received the backing of the other losers, a move that propelled her to victory. Other places where the indepent wave swept is in Ainabkoi constituency. Here, MP-elect Mr William Chepkut’s nomination outcome in JP was disputed. Parliamentary committee on justice chairman Samuel Chepkonga was handed the ticket.

In defiance, Chepkut went ahead to contest for the seat as an independent candidate and floored Chepkonga. Chepkut later told supporters in Eldoret town that his victory ‘had been snatched’.

Chepkut, a former personal assistant to the Late former powerful minister Nicholas Biwwot managed 23,216 votes against Chepkonga’s 19,140 votes.

Sitienei and Chepkut’s victories now leaves JP to be proud of only four constituencies in Uasin Gishu. They are Moiben under Silas Tiren, Kapseret (Oscar Sudi), Kesses (Swarup Mishra) and Soy (Caleb Kositany).

On the wave of independents, Mr Julius Barno, a university lecturer says independent candidature is an ‘impressive opening’ that should be embraced.

“Parties in Kenya are just vehicles to political power. It will be impressive to have independent candidates who should be ideologically unrelated to parties”.

To have individuals with strong political ideologies, Barno said there is need for laws that demand that independent candidates have been party less for some specific period.

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