Voters in Nepal lined up Sunday to elect members of parliament in hopes that a new government will bring political stability and help develop the Himalayan nation.
The main contestants in Sunday’s election are the ruling alliance of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress party and the Maoist Communist Party against the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), led by former prime minister Khadga Prasad Oli.
Security was beefed up across the country as a separate communist group known for violence in the past called for a boycott of the polls and threatened to disrupt the election.
Sunday was declared a national holiday and both private and public vehicles were banned.
In the main square in the heart of the capital Kathmandu, voters lined up to cast their ballots when the polls opened at 7am (01:15 GMT).
“The new government should focus on development, it should be able to work, determined to develop the country, in touch with the people,” said Ravi Shrestha, 65, a retired civil servant who was among the first who voted. .
“We need new leaders. We have seen the old generation working, but now we have to see new people, new faces, new talent emerging, which is the desire of the people,” said Shrestha.
Political instability has left Nepal with 13 different governments in the past 16 years. Frequent changes and infighting between parties have been blamed for a sluggish economy. Nepalese have seen little change since then, with the same generation of leaders holding power through their control of the main political parties.
Many voters say they are fed up with the same leaders staying in power and failing to deliver on their promises to improve people’s lives while the country makes little progress.
“I am here to ensure that we elect good people who can work for the upliftment of the country and who are not corrupt,” said 81-year-old businessman Manik Man Tamrakas.
Election results are likely to take days, if not weeks, as some ballot boxes must be transported from remote mountain villages. Once all the votes have been counted, the elected members of parliament will choose a prime minister who must receive the support of half of all MPs.
The next government, likely a coalition, will face the challenges of maintaining a stable political administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing the relationship between the giant nations – China and India – that neighbor the tiny country.