Nepal's oldest and largest political party reunited with a breakaway faction on Tuesday to create a formidable force in key national polls due later this year in the Himalayan nation.
The centrist Nepali Congress, headed by ailing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, and the Nepali Congress (Democratic) led by former premier Sher Bahadur Deuba reunited five years after a bitter power struggle.
"We have come together for the creation of a new Nepal ... and will face the November 22 polls unitedly," Koirala said after signing a unity agreement with Deuba, who also expressed similar sentiments.
The re-unification is expected to give the Nepali Congress an advantage over other groups in the election for a special assembly meant to map the impoverished nation's political future, including that of the controversial monarchy.
The Nepali Congress won a majority in the 1999 elections and formed the government but split in 2002 following a leadership tussle between Koirala and Deuba, throwing the mountainous nation into political turmoil.
Under the unity deal, Koirala will remain party president and Deuba will be one of the two most senior leaders after him, officials said.
The November polls have, however, come under a shadow after Maoist former rebels left the interim government last week demanding the monarchy be abolished immediately and the country declared a republic.
They have vowed to disrupt the vote in a move, analysts say, partly prompted by their fear of faring poorly.
But the government says it is committed to holding the election on time and that talks to woo the Maoists back are underway.