KATHMANDU: Nepali women dressed in saris and men in jeans and baseball caps lined up on Sunday as voting began in a general election that few expect to bring sweeping change – or a government capable of quickly reviving the economy.
“I voted for economic development, securing jobs, food, clothing, education and health services,” Rajesh said. Kumar Subedia 52-year-old employee who was the first to vote at the polling center in Phaimlamchuli, a suburb of Kathmandu, told Reuters.
The election pits the ruling alliance of the Nepalese Congress Party, led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and some former Maoist rebels, against Nepal’s Communist United Marxist Leninist Party (UML).
There are no pre-election polls, but political analysts expect the ruling alliance to retain power.
Polling stations close at 5:00 p.m. (11:15 GMT), the election commission said. It could take up to two weeks to declare the final results.
“We need political stability for faster growth of the economy and a government that can provide security for investors,” said another voter, Prakash Thapa, 25.
About 18 million people are eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament and the 550 members of seven provincial assemblies through a mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems.
The government has declared a public holiday on Sunday, which is a working day in Nepal.
Political stability has proven elusive for the impoverished nation, wedged 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 stimulate the economy at nationwide rallies.
Several young and independent candidates, including health and IT professionals, are challenging former party leaders, hoping to cash in on their quest for change.
“Former party leaders should change their style of operation after this election,” said Thapa, the voter.
The Electoral Commission urged voters to vote by secret ballot without fear of threats, intimidation and obstacles.
“Voting is not only their right but also their duty to choose representatives by secret ballot,” Chief Electoral Commissioner Dinesh Thapalia told Reuters.
Analysts said a new government would face the challenge of reviving the economy and reining in high prices.
There are fears that a global recession could reduce remittances, which account for around a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).
Tourism, which contributed 4% to GDP before the pandemic, has yet to fully recover. In the first 10 months of this year, more than 450,000 tourists visited Nepal, less than half the number of pre-COVID-19 visitors in 2019.
Foreign exchange reserves are shrinking and the retail inflation rate has hit six-year highs of around 8% in the Himalayan nation, where one in five people live on less than $2 a day.

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