Nepal fails in third attempt to elect prime minister
Politicians in Nepal have failed for a third time to elect a new prime minister after neither of the two candidates was able to secure a majority in parliament.
Maoist chief Prachanda and Ram Chandra Paudel of the Nepali Congress will face a fourth round of voting on Friday.
The eventual winner will form the third government in less than two years.
In 2008, Nepal changed from a monarchy to a republic as part of the peace deal which ended a decade-long civil war.
The previous Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, resigned last month.
Despite last-minute negotiations with smaller and regional parties, neither candidate was able to muster the votes needed for an outright majority.
Out of 601 MPs, Prachanda secured 259 votes, while Mr Paudel received 124. A further 186 MPs abstained.
Prachanda, whose full name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, previously served as prime minister for eight months until May 2009.
There are deep divisions and mistrust between Nepal's political factions, and no side has been able to put forward a candidate who can unite the parties, says the BBC's Joanna Jolly in Kathmandu.
There are fears that a prolonged period of political uncertainty could threaten Nepal's already fragile peace process, our correspondent says.
The peace deal two years ago brought the former Maoist rebels into the political mainstream, but Nepal has been troubled by continuing instability.
The drafting of a new constitution has been delayed, and the Nepalese economy has also been hit hard.