Kathmandu : Amid growing concern over the deepening constitutional crisis in Nepal, the Parliament will hold a fourth vote to try to elect a new prime minister following the failure of Maoist supremo Prachanda and his Nepali Congress rival R C Poudyal to get a clear majority.
More than a month after the 22-party coalition led by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal collapsed, a third run-off poll yesterday failed to elect a new leader, with both Prachanda and 65-year-old Poudyal unable to get majority support of the lawmakers in the 601-member Constituent Assembly.
The deadlocked political parties will meet for the fourth time in just over two weeks on Friday to elect a new Prime Minister. The new election will be held on August 6, according to Parliament secretariat.
As per the provisions in the interim constitution, the election process will be repeated till one of the candidates gets a clear majority support of 50 percent plus votes.
The country has been in political limbo since the June 30 resignation of Nepal, who is currently heading a caretaker government. 57-year-old Nepal quit amid intense pressure from the Maoists to pave the way for the formation of national government under its leadership. The resulting leadership vacuum is causing growing concern over the political stability in the country, which is has struggled to recover from a decade-long civil war led by the Maoist rebels that came to an end in 2006.
"The rules state that we have to keep doing this until one candidate gets a majority," said parliament's spokesman Mukunda Sharma. "It is up to the politicians to get us out of this mess, but there seems to be a serious lack of honesty from political parties towards the process," Sharma told reporters after the third round of vote in parliament.
Political analysts have warned that a delay in forming a new government could derail the 2006 peace process. "There will be chaos. All the government's plans and policies will be affected," an analyst said.
In his third attempt to become the new Prime Minister, Prachanda received 259 votes while Poudyal won the support of 124 of the 599 members present in the Assembly.
Though Prachanda won the highest number of votes, the Maoists chief failed to secure the overall majority needed to form a new government as 186 lawmakers remained neutral and abstained from voting.
The third largest party CPN-UML and the UDMF alliance of four Terai-based Madhesi parties with 84 lawmakers decided to abstain from voting as in the earlier two rounds.
The Nepal Maoists, who ended their decade-long civil war in 2006, have claimed the leadership of new government as it is largest party in parliament with nearly 40 percent of the seats.
The key alliance partners in the caretaker government, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, have ruled out the possibility of forming the next government under the Maoists' leadership as the former rebels have not yet laid down arms, managed their combatants and dissolved their paramilitary organization the Young Communist League.
Maoist leader Prachanda and his Nepali Congress rival Poudyal have been locked in intense negotiations with smaller parties to form a coalition government.
The UDMF alliance of four parties -- Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), MPRF Democratic, Terai Madhes Democratic Party and Sadbhavana Party -- have maintained that they would support the party that provides a clear roadmap to conclude the peace process and addresses demands of the community from the southern Terai region, including greater economic and political rights for them.
Even as the two major parties in the fray have accepted most of the demands of the UDMF alliance, they have refused to give a clear commitment on declaring the southern plain as a single autonomous region and mass recruitment of the community members in the security forces.
CPN-Maoist is the single-largest party with 238 MPs, while Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have 114 and 109 seats respectively in the Constituent Assembly, whose two-year term was extended by one year on May 28.
Nepal's parliament was elected in May 2008 with a two-year mandate to complete the country's post-war peace process and draft a new national constitution.
But it has failed to complete either task, hampered by disagreements between the Maoists and their rivals.
Maoists, who joined mainstream politics in 2006 after a decade-long insurgency, won the maximum seats in 2008 elections and briefly led the government before Prachanda resigned as premier following differences with President Ram Baran Yadav over the removal of then army chief Rukmangad Katwal who was sacked by the Maoists supremo in May 2 last year. PTI