Kathmandu: Without a prime minister for nearly three months, the volatile republic of Nepal faces another fruitless election on Sunday, as that too is bound to fail with two of the largest parties agreeing not to take part.
The opposition Maoists, who are the largest party in Parliament, announced they were withdrawing their candidate, former warlord Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who still prefers to be called Prachanda, the name he donned when his party fought a 10-year war against the state.
Prachanda, who became Nepal`s first prime minister two years ago when the Hindu kingdom was transformed into a secular republic, decided to pull out of the ongoing race after he failed to muster simple majority of votes among Parliament members - the electoral college - despite seven rounds of vote.
On Sunday, the Maoists will either boycott the election or abstain from voting, leaving in the ring a lone contestant.
However, given the unique election system prescribed by Nepal`s Constitution, the election has to be continued as long as there is a contender.
Ram Chandra Poudel, former deputy prime minister, and his centrist Nepali Congress party have refused to withdraw from the fray.
To win the election, Poudel needs to get at least 300 votes in the 601-seat Parliament. The Nepali Congress, though the second largest party, has only 114 MPs.
Though 11 more MPs from two other minor parties have been supporting Poudel, it is impossible for him to muster up simple majority and win on Sunday with the Maoists as well as another of the biggest parties abstaining.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) of caretaker prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has been sitting in abstention all through the seven rounds of election after it was forced to withdraw its party chief due to internal problems. The UML signed an agreement with the Maoists to announce that it would not vote in Sunday`s election.
Both the Maoists and the UML want the current election to end so that a new procedure may be adopted.
However, Parliament chairman Subas Nembang says that as long as Poudel refuses to budge, there cannot be any alternative but to continue with the poll, however fruitless the exercise.
The impasse was created by the Maoists, who forced the earlier government to quit even though the prime minister enjoyed majority support in Parliament.
Though the former guerrillas were confident of winning the election, their optimism misfired after a front of four ethnic parties shied away from voting for Prachanda following a scandal.
An audio tape surfaced ahead of the sixth round of election, allegedly recording conversations between Maoist lawmaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara and an unidentified middleman, who promised to get the Maoists NRS 500 million from a "friend" in China to buy the votes of 50 MPs. Maoists needed that number of votes to shore up Prachanda`s victory.
Now the ball is in the court of the Nepali Congress, which could agree to end the poll charade or continue with it.
However, the party remains absorbed in electing its office-bearers and its newly elected president Sushil Koirala is currently in hospital following a chest infection.
It is not likely to take any decision on the election till next week, well after the eighth round of election.