About 18 million people are eligible to vote for members of parliament and seven regional assemblies in Sunday’s elections.
Nepal will hold national and regional elections on Sunday, which the ruling coalition, led by the centrist Nepali Congress Party, is expected to win.
About 18 million people are eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament, as well as 550 members of the seven regional assemblies through a mixed primary and representative system.
Here are the key factors that will determine how Nepalis vote:
Recession and inflation
The Himalayan nation’s economy, which sits between Asian giants China and India, is shrinking, hit by rising energy and food prices, a dwindling currency and fears of a global recession.
The $38bn economy is expected to expand 4.7 per cent in the current financial year as of mid-July, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), down from last year’s estimate of 5.8 per cent.
About one in five people in the country, who live on less than $2 a day, have been hit hard by inflation – more than 8 percent this year.
Political parties have promised to lower interest rates, provide free healthcare, improve transport and boost the economy over the next five years.
The Nepali Congress party has promised to create 250,000 jobs every year if returned to power while the opposition Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) has promised to create 500,000 jobs every 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 comprises more than 30 percent of its annual budget.
Political stability has been difficult for the impoverished country, which sits between China and India, disconcerting many investors. Nepal has had 10 different governments since the abolition of the 239-year-old monarchy in 2008.
The three main Nepali parties – the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party UML and the Maoist Center – have all led various coalitions in the past but none has lasted five years due to power struggles and conflicts.
80 percent of Nepalese are Hindus, and the rest are Buddhists, Muslims and Christians.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who heads the Nepali Congress party, has allied with the Maoist Center Party, a major ex-Maoist rebel group. Deuba, 76, is seeking a sixth term. His Nepali Congress party is known to be very close to India.
The UML, led by 70-year-old KP Sharma Oli, is in an anti-royalty alliance. Oli, who has been known to be pro-Beijing in previous years, is the prime ministerial favorite if his alliance succeeds. He was prime minister twice.
The Maoist Center Party led by supremo Prachanda can be seen as king if the elections are inconsistent. Prachanda, who still goes by his moniker de guerre meaning “dangerous”, is also looking for a top job.
Results are expected within two weeks.
China, India preferences
Neighboring countries such as China and India, which have their own economic interests, will be watching the results of the election.
China has signed infrastructure projects with Nepal under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and wants to connect Kathmandu and Lhasa via a trans-Himalayan railway. Neighboring India has always had strong relations with Nepal.
The United States is also now a major development partner.