KATHMANDU, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Nepali women in saris and men in jeans and baseball caps were standing in long lines on Sunday as voting began in a general election that few expect will bring drastic change, or a government capable of reviving quickly the government. economy
“I voted for economic development, ensuring jobs, food, clothing, education and health services,” Rajesh Kumar Subedi, a 52-year-old employee who was the first to vote at the Phaimlamchuli polling station, told Reuters. suburb of Kathmandu.
The election pits the ruling alliance of the Nepali Congress party, led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and some former Maoist rebels, against the Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist Party of Nepal (UML).
There are no pre-election polls, but political analysts expect the ruling alliance to retain power.
Polls close at 5pm (1115 GMT), the Electoral Commission said. It could take up to two weeks to declare final results.
“We need political stability for faster growth of the economy and a government that can guarantee safety to investors,” said another voter, 25-year-old Prakash Thapa.
About 18 million people can vote in the 275-member parliament and the 550-member seven provincial assemblies through a combination of proportional and single-member representation systems.
The government has declared a holiday for Sunday, which is a working day in Nepal.
Political stability has proved difficult for the poor nation, sandwiched between China and India, discouraging many investors. Nepal has had 10 governments since the abolition of a 239-year-old monarchy in 2008.
Political parties have pledged to lower prices, create jobs and boost the economy in nationwide demonstrations.
Several young and independent candidates, including medical and IT professionals, are challenging the party’s former leaders, hoping to cash in on their quest for change.
“The old party leaders should change their style of functioning after this election,” said Thapa, the voter.
The Electoral Commission has urged voters to cast their secret ballot without fear of threats, intimidation and obstacles.
“Voting is not only their right but also their duty to choose representatives through secret ballot,” Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapalia told Reuters.
Analysts said a new government would face the challenge of reviving the economy and curbing high prices.
There are fears that a global recession could reduce remittances, which account for about a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).
Tourism, which contributed 4% to GDP before the pandemic, has not yet fully recovered. In the first 10 months of this year, more than 450,000 tourists visited Nepal, less than half the number of visitors pre-COVID-19 in all of 2019.
Foreign reserves are shrinking and the rate of retail inflation has remained at a six-year high of about 8 percent in the Himalayan nation, where one in five people lives on less than $2 a day.
Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Written by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Christopher Cushing
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