Nepal sets first post-monarchy elections for Nov 19

KATHMANDU (REUTERS) - Nepal's first national elections since the abolition of the 239-year-old monarchy will be held on November 19, the government said on Thursday, raising hopes for stability in the Himalayan nation that has lurched from one crisis to another.

Nepal is recovering from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006 and struggles with a fragile economy, crippling power cuts, ethnic divisions and a deteriorating security situation.

Regional giants China and India, which compete to win Nepal as a geo-political ally, will be watching the vote with keen interest, as protracted instability in the young republic could become a fresh security headache for them.

"We have scheduled the election for November 19," Law Minister Hari Prasad Neupane told Reuters after a cabinet meeting.

The vote is expected to boost a fragile peace process that ended a conflict that caused more than 16,000 deaths.

Polls will produce a 491-member Constituent Assembly that will draft a new constitution for Nepal which ended centuries of a Hindu monarchical system under which the kings, then considered by many as gods, wielded near-absolute powers.

The assembly will also double as parliament.

The term of the previous parliament expired in May last year without completing a draft constitution, with disagreement between the main political parties over the future set up of the government and the creation of new federal provinces.

Elections, which had been set for November last year, were delayed due to political discord resulting in five government changes since 2008 when the last elections took place.

Donors including the United States are hopeful that the polls will create the stability needed to attract investment and boost economic growth seen at 3.5 per cent this fiscal year to mid-July, the lowest in five years.

Some analysts say the vote could be delayed yet again as some small political parties have said they would boycott it.

In addition, a group of those parties, including some breakaway hardline Maoists, have threatened to disrupt the vote if it is held without their consent.

They are opposed to the caretaker government headed by the Supreme Court chief justice and want a government led by a politician to oversee the vote.

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