Voting begins in Nepal amid looming economic, political stability concerns

KATHMANDU, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Nepali women clad in saris and men in jeans and baseball caps stood in long lines on Sunday as voting began in a general election few expect to bring sweeping changes – or a government capable of quick recovery. the economy.

“I voted for economic development, guaranteeing jobs, food, clothing, education and health services,” Rajesh Kumar Subedi, a 52-year-old employee who was the first to vote at a polling station in Phaimlamchuli, a suburb of Kathmandu, told Reuters.

The election pits the ruling coalition of the Nepali Congress party, led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and former Maoist rebels, against the Nepal Communist Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party.

There are no early elections, but political analysts expect the ruling coalition to retain power.

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Polls close at 5 pm (1115 GMT), the Election Commission said. It may take up to two weeks for the final results to be announced.

“We need political stability for faster economic growth and a government that can guarantee protection for investors,” said another voter, Prakash Thapa, 25.

About 18 million people are eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament and 550-member seven provincial assemblies through a mix of proportional representation systems.

The government has declared a holiday on Sunday, which is a working day in Nepal.

Political stability has proven difficult for the poor nation, sandwiched between China and India, discouraging many investors. Nepal has had 10 governments since the end of the 239-year-old monarchy in 2008.

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Political parties have promised to lower prices, create jobs and boost the economy at conventions across the country.

Several young and independent candidates, including medical and IT professionals, are challenging the old party leaders, hoping to cash in on their campaign for change.

“The leaders of the old party must change the way they work after this election,” said Thapa, a voter.

The Electoral Commission has encouraged voters to vote secretly without fear of threats, intimidation and obstruction.

“Voting is not only their right but also their duty to choose representatives by secret ballot,” Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapalia told Reuters.

Analysts say the new government will face the challenge of reviving the economy and reducing high prices.

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There are fears that the global economic slowdown could reduce remittances, which make up about a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).

Tourism, which contributed 4% to GDP before the pandemic, has not fully recovered. In the first 10 months of this year, more than 450,000 tourists visited Nepal, less than half the number of COVID-19 visitors in all of 2019.

Foreign reserves are falling and inflation has risen to a six-year high of around 8% in the Himalayan nation, where one in five people live on less than $2 a day.

Report by Gopal Sharma; Written by Manoj Kumar; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Christopher Cushing

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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