Nearly 50 days after Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned under Maoist pressure, the Himalayan republic is yet to get a new premier with a fifth round of election in parliament scheduled on Wednesday heading for failure yet again.
As Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda contests the election against Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, neither is likely to garner the support of half the lawmakers in the 601-member parliament mandatory to form the new government.
The unprecedented impasse was created by two major groups whose support could have helped a new prime minister come to power.
However, the caretaker prime minister's Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and a bloc of four ethnic parties from the Terai plains have fanned the prevailing uncertainty by staying neutral all through the earlier four rounds of vote.
Prachanda's party is the largest in the house with 236 MPs of its own, diminished by one following the recent death of a lawmaker. The former revolutionary needs the support of either the communists, who command 109 seats, or the Terai bloc with its 82 votes to reach the half-way mark of 301.
Though Poudel needs to swing the support of both the parties to pip Prachanda, it is not an impossible task and Nepal's cut-throat politics has seen stranger alliances.
However, the communists, still smarting after their candidate had to exit the ring during the first round of election, are insistent on their pound of flesh and have decided to sit neutral Wednesday as well.
Though the Madhesi parties from the Terai bloc can bale Prachanda out, intra-party squabbling has prevented them so far from supporting any of the candidates. Swayed by the example of the communists, they too could abstain from voting Wednesday.
The communists have asked both contestants to withdraw their nomination so that a new alliance among the major parties can be worked out.
However, Poudel's party has refused on the ground that since it supported the communist government in the past, it was entitled to their backing. After the failure of both the Maoists and communists to take the peace process forward, it says it should be allowed to have its turn at forming the new government.
The Maoists, realising the contest could continue endlessly without any side winning, say they are ready to withdraw from the race provided it is guaranteed that Poudel will too.
The crisis over forming the new government has seen Nepal lose two months of the one-year extension given to write a new constitution.
The warring parties failed to promulgate the new statute by May, as had been agreed.
If Wednesday's election too fails, it will once again seriously jeopardise the constitution, now to be drafted by May 2010, and the peace process that ended a decade of Maoist insurgency.