Kakamega County Assembly in session. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

As candidates express interest, the race for the next speakers of county assemblies across the country has heated up.

Interested parties have already begun meeting with newly elected ward representatives to lobby for the coveted positions.

Despite the fact that the election of a speaker to the county assembly is supposed to be an independent decision of the ward representatives, external influence has been at work in the past.

Governors, senators, representatives, and even the President influenced the election of county assembly speakers in some counties, with ward representatives being whipped through their respective political parties.

According to Nakuru County Assembly Clerk Joseph Malinda, they have yet to declare the position vacant and will do so after the next governor is sworn in, as required by law.

"Once the new governor takes office and notifies the Assembly of the first meeting," Malinda said, "we will advertise for the job and have it as the first agenda item."

A majority of the governors-elect are set to be sworn in next week, with Nakuru and Baringo counties holding ceremonies before high court judges on Thursday. James Koskei, a former Kuresoi MP who also served as Assistant Minister for Health in former President Daniel Moi's government from 1998 to 2002, is running.

"I'm hoping the ward representatives will give me the opportunity to be their speaker. I am a resident and have taught in the county, so I understand what the county requires," Koskei said.

Engineer Joel Maina Kairu is the outgoing speaker of the Nakuru County Assembly. On a Jubilee ticket, he ran unsuccessfully for the Nakuru Town East MP seat.

Joel Karuri, the immediate former Biashara Ward representative who also served as the chairperson of the Nakuru County Assembly's Budget and Appropriations Committee, is also said to be interested in the seat.

Dr Peter Mbae, the outgoing Kabazi ward representative who unsuccessfully ran for the Subukia Parliamentary seat on a UDA ticket but lost at the nominations, is also running.

Kairu, Karuri, and Mbae all declined to comment on the matter, with a portion of the new ward reps indicating that they will likely choose among the four.

Lawyer Peter Bore, who was 16 votes short of becoming chair of the Rift Valley Law Society, is also running for speaker. Bore, who declared his candidacy on Friday, promised to serve the people of Nakuru diligently, honestly, competently, and without bias, if elected.

In his declaration statement, Mr Bore stated, "My agenda will be to improve the quality of bills tabled in the assembly and ensure they meet international standards." He added that he will prioritise the welfare of county assembly members and staff and that given the assembly's cosmopolitan nature, he will try to unify the team.

At least seven people in Baringo County have expressed interest in becoming county speaker.

Winnie Chemase, Clerk of the Baringo County Assembly, told The Standard they were waiting for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to gazette the names of nominated MCAs and the governor-elect to be sworn in.

"We are still waiting for the IEBC to publish the list of selected nominated MCAs before the governor-elect is sworn in," Ms Chemase said.

David Kerich, the outgoing speaker, served as speaker until February of this year, when he resigned to run for the Baringo Central Parliamentary seat on the UDA ticket, but was defeated in primaries. "I'm not going to compete in the race; I'm going to focus on other things, and I wish all the competitors the best," Kerich said.

According to sources familiar with the ongoing lobbying, Dr Noah Chepkech, Joseph Tarus, Sylus Tochim, Hillary Songoyo, Richard Koech, Emily Kiptui, and Peter Kebut are among those interested in the seat.

Dr Chepkech ran for Mogotio MP, Tarus for Baringo South, Tochim for Baringo Senate, and Koech for governor.

Several lawyers are vying for the position of Kericho County Assembly Speaker. Dominic Rono, a lawyer who is running for re-election, currently holds the seat. Davies Sang and Ben Siele, two of his colleagues, have also entered the race to become the county's third Speaker.

Sang, a constitutional lawyer, is running for re-election and is relying on his contributions to researching and writing Chapter 11 of the Constitution. The 37-year-old is also a champion for social justice, providing pro bono legal services to several indigents.

"My experience serving on devolution advisory committees in several counties, as well as my tenure as Law Society of Kenya, Kericho branch chairman, make me an ideal candidate for the Speaker's position," Sang said.

Siele, who represents Kipkelion East, also claimed that his legal and county governance experience gives him an advantage over his opponents for the seat.

"I am running for Speaker of the Kericho County Assembly because I am very familiar with the role." "I've been among those who have expressed an opinion on how best the County Governments can function," Siele explained.

Dr Patrick Mutai, the finance executive in Governor Paul Chepkwony's administration, is also said to be running.

[Reports by Kennedy Gachuhi, Daniel Chege, Yvonne Chepkwony and Nikko Tanui]