KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Voters in Nepal lined up Sunday to elect members in parliament in hopes that a new government would bring political stability and help with the Himalayan nation’s development.
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 Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist), headed by former Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.
Security was stepped up across the country as a separate communist group known for violence in the past called for boycotting the polls and threatened to disrupt the election.
Sunday was declared a national holiday and both private and public vehicles were barred from the streets.
At the main square in the heart of the capital Kathmandu, voters lined up to cast their ballots when the booths opened at 7 a.m. (0115 GMT).
“The new government should be focused on development, it should be able to work, determined to develop the country, who are in touch with the people,” said Ravi Shrestha, 65, a retired government worker who was among the first ones to vote.
“We need young leaders. We have seen the old generation work but now we need to see new people, new faces, new talent to come up, which is the desire of the people,” Shrestha said.
Political instability has left Nepal with 13 different governments in the past 16 years. The frequent changes and squabbles among parties have been blamed for a slow economy. Nepalis have seen little change since, with the same generation of leaders holding power through their control of the main political parties.
Many voters say they are tired of the same leaders retaining power and failing to deliver on promises to improve people’s lives while the country makes little progress.
“I am here to make sure that we elect good people who are able to 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 need to be carried from remote mountain villages. Once all votes are counted, the elected members in parliament will chose a prime minister who will have to get the support of half the total members.
The next government, likely a coalition, will face the challenges of keeping a stable political administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing the relationship between the giant nations — China and India — that neighbor the tiny country.
Binaj Gurubacharya, The Associated Press