National elections in India begin on Monday, with the election scheduled to last until the second week of May. The month-long effort will elect 543 members of the lower house of Parliament in what The New York Times says “is widely considered to be India’s most consequential election since 1977.”
814 million voters are eligible to cast their votes — up from 713 million in 2009 — at 930,000 polling stations throughout the country. The polling days are segmented into different constituencies in order to try and maintain an orderly election process. For example, election rules stipulate that polling stations must be set up within 2 kilometers of every voter, and this is the first year that electronic voting machines will be used. Monday’s vote concerns constituencies in the northeast region of the country.
The central issue during this election is India’s economic performance. India’s economic growth has slowed in recent years, and politicians are split over whether to prioritize alleviating poverty or kickstarting the economy.
According to Reuters:
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, and its allies are forecast to win the biggest chunk of seats but fall shy of a majority, according to a poll released this week by respected Indian pollsters CSDS. In such a situation, a coalition government led by the BJP is seen as the most likely outcome.
Additionally, faith in India’s politicians has dropped sharply. As Peter Bergen and Ana Swanson explain at CNN, 30 percent of India’s current parliament face criminal charges. Studies estimate that $5 billion may be spent by politicians campaigning, which is triple what was spent in 2009’s national election.
The election results are scheduled to be determined on May 16.