The lone candidate in Nepal's deadlocked prime ministerial poll withdrew his candidature on Wednesday ahead of the 17th round of voting.
Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel stepped aside from the contest after opposition Maoists and ruling coalition partner Communist Party of Nepal (UML) refused to defer polling till Thursday.
A formal announcement regarding Poudel's withdrawal was made in parliament late on Wednesday evening by NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba after the party's central committee agreed to the move.
"Keeping the requests made by other parties in mind, I decided to withdraw to forge consensus on government formation and speed up peace process and constitution drafting," Poudel told media persons.
Poudel's withdrawal has paved way for a fresh process to elect the next prime minister. Parliament's business advisory committee will decide the next process on Thursday.
Nepal has been without an effective government since June 30 last year after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned. Sixteen rounds of voting in parliament have failed to elect a new prime minister.
Earlier in the day, Nepali Congress sought deferral of the 17th round of voting till Thursday. But with Maoists and CPN (UML) refusing to entertain the request, it decided to withdraw Poudel's candidature.
With NC agreeing to the Maoist and CPN (UML) demand regarding Poudel's withdrawal, there's hope of the three major parties reaching consensus on power sharing.
Sources say that all three major parties are likely to head the government on a rotational basis till completion of the peace process and drafting of the new constitution.
Nepal's PM race started with three candidates, but CPN (UML) chief Jhalanath Khanal withdrew before the first round of voting and Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal retired after few rounds.
Since constitutional provisions stipulate unending rounds of voting till a winner emerges or the last remaining candidate withdraws, Poudel remained in contest despite no chance of winning.
With Maoists, CPN (UML) and prominent Madhesi parties abstaining from voting, Poudel couldn't garner the support of 300 lawmakers needed to register a win.