Kathmandu: Nepal`s Parliament will again vote for a new prime minister on Thursday under revised election rules designed to break a deadlock that has left the country without a government for seven months.
Lawmakers voted 16 times last year to try to elect a new leader after former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stepped down in June, but none of the three candidates managed to win the necessary overall majority.
Analysts said the new rules, under which no lawmaker will be allowed to abstain and the house speaker will be able to disqualify candidates after three failed rounds of voting, may still fall short of ensuring a result.
No single party has an absolute majority in Nepal`s Parliament. The Maoists have the highest number of seats, but failed to win the support of smaller parties for their candidate, Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
All three candidates in the last round -- Maoist leader and former prime minister Dahal, Ram Chandra Poudel of the centrist Nepali Congress party, and UML (Unified Marxist Leninist) chairman Jhalanath Khanal -- are standing again.
"The sole factor they are banking on is the amendments they have made to the rules, which allow for a process of elimination," political analyst Yubaraj Ghimire said.
"In theory, one candidate has to be declared the winner. But I don`t think it will be that simple. The political parties have not even tried to formulate a common position yet."
The three main contenders will be joined in Thursday`s contest by Bijay Kumar Gachhedar of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), which represents the Madhesi ethnic minority that lives mainly in southern Nepal.
The crisis has delayed fresh government spending and work on a new Constitution, vital exercises in impoverished Nepal which is still reeling from a decade of civil war in which at least 16,000 people died.
A second round of voting will be held on Saturday if, as most observers expect, none of the four candidates wins an overall majority on Thursday.
If that also proves inconclusive, the two candidates with the most votes will go through to a third round on Sunday.
The Maoists, who fought a 10-year battle against the state before entering politics and winning elections in 2008, have repeatedly said that as the largest single party in Parliament they should lead the government.