About 18 million people are eligible to vote for MPs and seven provincial assemblies in Sunday’s polls.
Nepal will hold national and provincial elections on Sunday, which the ruling coalition, led by the centrist Nepalese Congress Party, is expected to win.
About 18 million people are eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament, as well as the 550 members of seven provincial assemblies through a mix of first past the post and proportional representation.
Here are the main issues that will determine how the Nepalese vote.
Slowing economy and high inflation
Sandwiched between Asian giants China and India, the economy of the Himalayan nation is slowing, hit by rising energy and food prices, monetary tightening and fears of a global recession.
According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the $38 billion economy in the current fiscal year is expected to grow at a rate of 4.7 percent from mid-July from last year’s estimate of 5.8 percent.
About a fifth of the country’s population, who live on less than $2 a day, has been hit hard by high inflation, which has hovered at more than 8 percent this year.
Political parties have pledged to lower interest rates, provide free medical services, improve transportation and boost the economy over the next five years.
The Nepalese Congress Party has pledged to create 250,000 jobs each year if it returns to power, while the main communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) opposition has pledged to create 500,000 jobs each year.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy depends on foreign aid, tourism and remittances from foreign workers. Western aid accounts for more than 30 percent of the annual budget.
Political stability has proved elusive for the poor country sandwiched between China and India, discouraging many investors. Nepal has had 10 different governments since the abolition of a 239-year-old monarchy in 2008.
The three main parties in Nepal – Nepali Congress, the Communist UML Party and the Maoist Center – have all led various coalitions in the past, but none have served the full five-year term due to infighting and infighting.
Eighty percent of the Nepalese are Hindu, the rest are Buddhist, Muslim and Christian.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, leader of the Nepalese Congress Party, has joined the Maoist Center Party, the main group of former Maoist rebels. Deuba, 76, is trying to return to power for the sixth time. His Nepalese Congress party is considered the closest party to India.
The UML, led by 70-year-old KP Sharma Oli, has a loose alliance with a royalist group. Oli, known for his pro-Beijing stance during previous terms in office, is the favorite for prime minister if his alliance wins. He has been Prime Minister twice before.
The Maoist Center party led by supremo Prachanda could emerge as a kingmaker in the event of an unclear election. Prachanda, still using his nom de guerre, which means “fierce”, is also aiming for the top job.
Results are expected within two weeks.
China, India interests
Neighboring countries China and India, with their strategic and economic interests, will keep an eye on the election results.
China has signed infrastructure projects with Nepal under its comprehensive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and plans to connect Kathmandu to Lhasa through a trans-Himalayan rail network. Neighboring India has long had strong ties with Nepal.
The United States is now also an important development partner.