Why Bomet battleground is crucial for DP Ruto
Political temperatures are high in Bomet County as National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, who trounced veteran politician Julius Kones to win the Jubilee Part ticket, goes head to head with incumbent Governor Isaac Ruto on Tuesday.
Ms. Laboso is looking to ouster Governor Ruto who the ruling Jubilee duo have dubbed a rebel after the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) leader joined forces with the National Super Alliance (NASA) to officially become the fifth co-principal of the opposition coalition.
While welcoming the fiery Bomet governor to NASA’s top leadership on April 21, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga stated that “with the Bomet governor’s addition, the opposition’s Pentagon was complete.”
“The five of us, Isaac Ruto, Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and yours truly Raila Amolo Odinga, have today relaunched the famous Pentagon of 2005 referendum,” said Raila.
Bomet Voting Block
The mainly agricultural South Rift county has five constituencies and has 322,012 registered voters according to the IEBC database.
Governor Ruto’s backyard, Chepalungu, has 68,544 registered voters while Laboso’s Sotik has 73,314 eligible voters.
The three other constituencies Konoin, Bomet Central and Bomet East have 67,177, 60,115 and 52,863 registered voters respectively.
Ms. Laboso, who left ODM for United Republican Party (URP) in 2012, is banking on the Jubilee juggernaut and has been calling for six-piece voting to defeat the incumbent, arguing that the Kalenjin will not vote in a NASA man since their governor is number five in the opposition pecking order when Deputy President William Ruto is number two in Jubilee
However, it is a possibility that Bomet residents will vote for Jubilee at the presidency level but decide to support one of ‘their own sons’ for governorship.
Despite all the criticisms from the government branding him ‘anti-development’ over the land battle to build Moi University Bomet Campus, the governor has exuded confidence, touting his development projects as the reason locals will re-elect him on Tuesday.
Jubilee’s litmus Test
Governor Ruto’s brazen move has so far attracted varied responses from both sides of the political divide with most pundits agreeing on one thing: the outcome of Ruto’s opposition bid will be the ultimate litmus test for Jubilee’s support in the Rift Valley region.
Situated in Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, the county has been perceived as a Jubilee stronghold – an assumption that Governor Ruto has sought to change by rallying up support for NASA and more importantly his CCM outfit.
Following numerous criticisms of Jubilee’s leadership, Governor Ruto drew a line in the sand in sand 2016 when his party joined hands with independence party KANU to field a joint candidate to rival Jubilee’s Aaron Cheruiyot in the Kericho senatorial by-elections after Charles Keter was appointed to be Energy CS. Despite losing at the ballot, this move worked to raise questions about the DP’s support in the region.
If Governor Ruto, who will be seeking his re-election on a CCM party ticket, will retain his seat in the gubernatorial race come August 8 2017, he will have set himself in a pole position to possibly becoming the next Rift Valley kingpin.
Should Joyce Laboso sent home the governor, then DP Ruto will have succeeded in erasing all lingering doubts about his authority in the vote-rich region.
Governor Ruto, the former chairperson of the Council of Governors (CoG), has maintained that the main reason he ditched the ruling coalition is because of their deaf ear to devolution, and playing politics of seclusion. He claims that contrary to what the president and his deputy are selling to Kenyans, the government has unevenly distributed tangible development projects.
“They have frustrated devolution ever since they came into power. Most of the taxpayers’ money is wasted in corruption and they have refused to increase funding to counties,” said Ruto when approached to answer why he criticizes the government he so much campaigned for in 2013 by Citizen TV.
On the other hand Laboso, who before joining politics to succeed his elder sister Lorna who perished in a plane crash in 2008, was a linguistic lecturer at the Egerton University, has strongly criticized Governor Ruto’s leadership saying that he is playing abusive politics that divide the Rift Valley electorates.
“Politics does not have to be abusive, unconstructive criticism and chest thumping. Governor Ruto should first work with the money at his disposal first before asking for more. We are not seeing any development in Bomet since the advent of devolution,” Laboso accused Ruto in one of her interviews with Citizen TV.
Who will be the next Bomet Governor? This is an answer only people of Bomet will provide come Tuesday, August 8.