Ethnic alliances and choice of running mates are expected to determine the political direction the Nakuru governor seat takes ahead of the August 8 General Election.
Cosmopolitan Nakuru is home to more than 10 communities, with two being the largest and key determinants of previous elections.
The communities include Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Kamba, Kuria, Meru, Maasai, Turkana among others.
In the 2013 elections Kalenjin and Kikuyu — the two largest communities in the county — forged an alliance, which saw Mr Kinuthia Mbugua take the governor seat.
His deputy is Mr Joseph Ruto.
The Woman Representative seat went to Ms Mary Mbugua while Mr James Mungai became senator.
In another round of negotiated democracy, some leaders and elders have proposed a formula of sharing key positions, saying it would heal wounds created by the 2007/8 post-election violence.
Nakuru was one of the main theatres of the conflict that saw more than 1,000 Kenyans killed, countless injured and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.
The group spearheading the negotiated democracy is led by political activist and businessman Shadrack Koskei.
In the proposed line-up, the Kalenjin in return to offering support to a Kikuyu governor want the latter to back a Kalenjin woman representative candidate.
Already, the Senate seat has been reserved for county assembly speaker Susan Kihika, the daughter of veteran politician Dickson Kihika Kimani who died in 2004.
Kihika Kimani was a member of parliament for many years.
THREAT TO DEMOCRACY
Ms Kihika appears to have the blessings of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin.
However, talks on who should run for governor are still unclear, with more than five people having thrown their hats into the ring.
Those who have expressed interest in the county’s top seat are Mr James Koskei, a former assistant minister and close ally of Deputy President William Ruto; former Naivasha Member of Parliament John Mututho; former National Transport and Safety Authority chairman Lee Kinyanjui; Nakuru Senator James Mungai and Reverend Lawrence Bomet, a former member of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.
The hopefuls are battling to win the endorsement of elders from the two dominant communities.
Three of the aspirants are seen to be frontrunners.
They are incumbent Kinuthia Mbugua who has in the past few weeks been traversing the county in search of votes.
The other two are Mr Mututho Mr Kinyanjui.
They have engaged Mr Mbugua in a war of words over his record and “unbridled corruption” in Nakuru County.
The two, touted as Mr Mbugua’s greatest challengers, will also battle it out in the Jubilee nominations.
The negotiated democracy proposal has sparked a heated debate among Nakuru residents.
Individuals rooting for the arrangement and their supporters say it is the best way of sharing power while those opposed to it insist it is a serious threat to democracy.
“Such an arrangement is unacceptable in this era. Nakuru residents should be left to choose leaders based on their records,” Mr Benard Ogembo said.
Mr Robert Ndugire, another resident, also dismissed the plan, saying it would lead to marginalisation of communities perceived as minorities.
Another significant determinant of the governor race would be the choice of running mates.
Only one of the governor hopefuls has chosen a running mate.
Mr Mututho settled on 26-year-old Maureen Chebet, a teacher in Kuresoi South Constituency.
Mr Mbugua has not formally announced his running mate.
However, analysts say he would most likely retain Mr Ruto as a strategy to maintain the Kalenjin support.
A source close to Senator Mungai told the Nation that he was consulting Kalenjin leaders on who to settle for as his deputy.
Last month, Mr Mungai launched his bid, asking his opponents to step down in his favour.
Although Mr Kinyanjui, who in 2013 lost the governor race to Mr Mbugua, has not put public his plans for a running mate, analysts say he stands a better chance if he chooses a Kalenjin.
“The other characteristic that will be crucial is whether the running mate is a man or woman. The choice of a woman might deliver more votes for any particular candidate,” Mr Jesse Karanja, a local political analyst told this journalist.
However, Rift Valley Council of elders chairman Gilbert Kabage has advised the aspirants to choose running mates who can diligently serve Nakuru County residents.
“Choose running mates regardless of tribal affiliation. Go for hardworking individuals,” Mr Kabage said recently.
The governor race that has kicked off in earnest has elicited debates as “winning formulas” are put in place.