KATHMANDU: Nepal`s parliament will on Sunday hold its sixth vote to try to elect a new prime minister and end a two-month leadership vacuum in the troubled Himalayan nation.
Nepal has been without a government since June 30, when former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stood down under pressure from the opposition Maoist party to pave the way for a new power-sharing government.
Since then, political leaders have been unable to agree on the shape of the new administration and five earlier votes to try to select a new prime minister have failed. Sunday`s vote is due at 3:00pm (0915 GMT).
The Maoists, who fought a decade-long civil war against the state before transforming themselves into a political party ahead of 2008 elections, hold the largest number of seats in parliament, but not enough to govern alone.
Party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better know as Prachanda, is standing against Ram Chandra Poudel, chairman of the second-largest party in parliament, the centrist Nepali Congress.
But neither candidate has been able to secure the backing of rival parties that they would need to form a new coalition government.
Negotiations between the Maoists and a grouping of four small parties that collectively hold 82 of the 601 seats in parliament continued all week, but appeared not to have resulted in a deal on time for Sunday`s vote.
In the meantime, the country is being ruled by a caretaker government with limited powers, a situation that has delayed much-needed public spending in one of the world`s poorest countries.
The speaker of the house Subas Nembang warned of a "serious crisis" if the stalemate persisted.
"The political parties remain unclear as to whether Sunday`s vote will yield a successful result," he told AFP.
"People are growing frustrated by the continuing failure of the political parties to elect a new government, and the impasse has raised questions about the democratic system.
"The country has been ruled by a caretaker government for two months, resulting in a delay to the annual budget, and it is heading towards a serious crisis."
Nepal`s parliament, or Constituent Assembly, 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.
Lawmakers voted on May 31 to extend its term to give them time to complete the constitution and the peace process, but little progress has been made since then.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), which holds the third-largest number of seats in parliament, has refused to support either candidate in the poll.
BDST: 1330 HRS, September 5, 2010