11/19/2022, 17.58
NEPAL
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Nepalis go to the polls tomorrow with young and independent candidates as challengers

About 18 million eligible voters will vote for national and provincial assemblies. Nepalis are tired of the three traditional parties. The interests of China, India and the United States are involved.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – General and provincial elections are scheduled for tomorrow in Nepal, with about 18 million voters called to elect the 275 members of Parliament and 550 members of provincial assemblies via a mixed system (party-list proportional representation and single-member constituencies).

Since the monarchy was abolished in 2008, 10 governments have ruled the small country nestled between China and India.

Each of the country's three main parties – the Nepali Congress (NC), the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), a breaking away from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre) – have ruled with different coalitions, but none has ever managed to complete a five-year term.

Incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, 76, head of the Nepali Congress, has formed an alliance with the Maoist Centre seeking a sixth term. His party is considered to be the closest to India.

The CPN-UML, headed by 70-year-old Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, twice prime minister, has instead allied itself with a monarchist party. Oli has repeatedly expressed pro-China positions.

China and Nepal have signed an agreement to build a trans-Himalayan railway linking Kathmandu to Lhasa as part of its mega Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project.

The United States has also invested in the country through cooperation projects.

Several observers have noted that these elections, whose results will be announced in two weeks, have seen  new forces join the political fray.

In May’s local elections, Balendra Shah, a 32-year-old rapper who ran as an independent, was elected mayor of the capital Kathmandu, defeating the Nepali Congress candidate.

Tomorrow's national elections will therefore be an important test for young and independent candidates who are trying to use widespread frustrations among voters against traditional parties.

Nepalis want the new government to introduce progressive reforms focused on job creation and fighting corruption.

A campaign marked with the hashtag #NoNotAgain has gone viral on social media, calling for the renewal of a political class branded as "foolish and corrupt".

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy depends heavily on foreign aid, tourism, and remittances from Nepali workers abroad.

Western aid accounts for more than 30 per cent of the national budget.

About 80 per cent of Nepalis are Hindu, while the rest are divided between Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians.

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