3 Mar 2009

India sets dates for general election

7:10 am on 3 March 2009

A general election is to be held in India between 16 April - 13 May.

Some 714 million people will be entitled to vote at more than 800,000 polling stations.

The Election Commission said on Monday counting of ballots would take place on 16 May.

Commissioner N. Gopalaswami said voting would be held in five phases to take fixtures such as school examinations, local holidays,

festivals and the harvest season into account.

Staggered voting will also enable security forces to move around the country.

The main battle will be between the Congress-led coalition and the leading opposition bloc, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The election comes amid a decline in the economy. Domestic demand has slumped and exports have dipped sharply.

The economy is expected to expand 7.1% in fiscal 2008/09 - the slowest pace in six years.