•The by-elections will give a chance to both sides to prove their influence on the Luhya bloc while the Mudavadi-Wetang'ula pair will be seeking to demonstrate their grip on the region which has supported ODM leader Raila Odinga.
•The withdrawal of Ford Kenya from the Matungu race and skipping of the Kabuchai race by ANC to support each other against any other candidate is indicative of their resolve to ward off Raila or DP Ruto.
The upcoming Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections will define the Luhya community leadership.
The two by-elections set for March 4 come after the deaths of Justus Murunga of Matungu and James Lusweti of Kabuchai.
The outcome will indicate which of the two camps, one led by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetangula and that led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, has control over the region.
The Oparanya-Wamalwa axis came into being after a meeting by a section of Luhya leaders at Cotu boss Francis Atwoli's Kajiado residence in May last year.
The faction which included Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati initially went around the Western region seeking to replace the Mudavadi-Wetang'ula pair and champion the region's development agenda ahead of the 2022 succession race.
Activities by the group have since slowed down. While Oparanya will be leading the ODM in Matungu, he will face off with Mudavadi and Wetang’ula who are supporting one candidate.
The by-elections will give a chance to both sides to prove their influence on the Luhya bloc while the Mudavadi-Wetang'ula pair will be seeking to demonstrate their grip on the region which has supported ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Mudavadi's ANC has fielded Peter Nabulindo in Matungu while ODM has presented former MP David Were. Paul Achayo will be running on the MDG ticket while Raphael Welimo is eying the Jubilee ticket.
Paul Atwa, Ben Wakoli, Charles, Kasamani, Paul Posho, Alex Lanya, Arnold Maliba, Anzelimo Kongoti, Athman Wangara, Murunga's second wife Christabel Amunga and Odanga Pessa are also in the race as independents.
Ford Kenya is fielding Majimbo Kalasinga against independents after ODM pulled out of the Kabuchai race.
In Kabuchai, Ford Kenya's Kalasinga will square it out with David Kibiti of Green Movement Party, Amos Wekesa of Federal Party of Kenya, Scholastica Murunga and Nairobi-based land surveyor Peter Kapanga and Kakai will contest as independents.
Political pundits have opined that the two by-elections will be a battle of the big guns flexing their muscles to know their standing in the community ahead of the 2022 race.
Speeches by Luhya elders and elected leaders from Western during the burial of Mudavadi's mother Hanna Atsianzale pointed at him as the community's political head.
The withdrawal of Ford Kenya from the Matungu race and skipping of the Kabuchai race by ANC to support each other against any other candidate is an indication of their resolve to ward off Raila and DP Ruto.
Political scientist Robert Watangwa said the Oparanya-Wamalwa axis will not have any impact in the two elections.
"By Ford Kenya settling on Kalasinga he disarmed Wamalwa because he is his close ally while Mudavadi's ANC will easily retain the Matungu seat for the pride of Luhyas as a community," he said.
Watangwa said Raila lost Western immediately he lost Mudavadi and Wetang'ula from his orbit in NASA.
He said Ruto cannot win Kabuchai as he did in Msambweni because his entry in the region was because of the unity between Raila, Mudavadi and Wetang'ula under NASA.
Political analyst Martin Andati said the clamour for Luhya unity is at its peak at the moment and it will be hard to sell Were on an ODM ticket.
"This leaves Mudavadi and Wetang'ula with easy victories. The Oparanya Wamalwa camp crumbled after the planned takeover of Ford Kenya and destabilising of ANC using Lugari MP Ayub Savula backfired," he said.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris