Kathmandu: Unable to elect a new prime minister even after 16 rounds of vote held throughout last year and failing two deadlines set this month for an all-party government, Nepal`s warring parties will now slug it out again next month during a fresh round of prime ministerial election February 3.
The Business Advisory Committee of parliament, which runs the prime ministerial poll, on Thursday announced that the parties would have to file nominations February 2, following which fresh elections would be held February 3.
The decision came after the three major parties - the ruling Communists, their ally, the Nepali Congress, and the opposition Maoists - remained deadlocked in a bitter contest for power that began in June 2010 after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned, and shows no sign of resolution even after nearly seven months.
The warring parties, which failed to name a consensus government by last Friday, the deadline set by President Ram Baran Yadav, sought more time but failed the extended time limit to Wednesday, forcing the head of state to call for elections and a new premier chosen on the basis of majority support in parliament.
To prevent last year`s debacle when 16 rounds of fruitless polls turned the exercise into the butt of public jokes and anger, the rules have now been changed.
If there is only one contestant in the February 3 poll and he fails to garner half the votes in the 601-seat parliament, the election will be scrapped unlike in the past, when the race was run and re-run to allow him garner simple majority.
If there are more than two candidates, the voting can go on till three rounds. However, only the top two candidates will be allowed to take part in the final round.
Also, unlike in the past, lawmakers will not be allowed to skip the vote or stay neutral.
The Business Advisory Committee also said if the February 3 poll did not produce a winner, the second and final rounds of election would be held February 5 and 6 respectively.
The poll dates were announced ahead of the president leaving for India on a 10-day official visit on Thursday.
The three major parties remained locked in negotiations in a five-star hotel in the capital Thursday but with little possibility of a breakthrough.
The Maoists are seeking to lead the new government on the ground that they emerged as the largest party after the 2008 election.
However, the ruling parties say they will not support the Maoist bid till the former guerrillas disband their nearly 20,000-strong guerrilla army, which is still feared to be under the control of the party though it was formally handed over to the government last week.