|The political deadlock means Nepal cannot pass a budget, impeding crucial public spending in the poor country [AFP]
Nepal's parliament has failed for the sixth time to select a new prime minister, leading the speaker of the house to warn of a "serious crisis" if a new government is not installed soon.
The country has been without a prime minister since June 30, when Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned under pressure from the opposition Maoist party.
Sunday's failed attempt is the latest setback to attempts to form a new coalition government.
"The impasse has raised questions about the democratic system," said Subas Nembang, the house speaker.
"The country has been ruled by a caretaker government for two months, resulting in a delay to the annual budget."
Delaying the budget means crucial public spending cannot take place in one of the world's poorest countries.
Nepal "is heading towards a serious crisis", Nembang said.
The Maoists, who fought a decade-long civil war against the state before transforming themselves into a political party ahead of the 2008 elections, hold the largest number of seats in parliament, but not enough to govern alone.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist party leader who is better known as Prachanda, is attempting to court smaller rival parties in his stand against Ram Chandra Poudel, chairman of the centrist Nepali Congress, the second largest party in parliament.
But neither leader has been able to secure enough backing from smaller parties.
The Maoists are in talks with a grouping of four small parties that collectively hold 82 of the 601 seats in parliament, but no deal has yet been reached.
Dahal secured 240 votes to Poudel's 122 in Sunday's poll. The third-largest party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), remained neutral in the vote and called on the two leading candidates to withdraw from the race and for the parties to open negotiations on forming a power-sharing government.
Nepal's parliament, or Constituent Assembly, was elected in May 2008 with a two-year mandate to complete the country's post-war peace process and draft a new national constitution.
But it has failed to complete either task, hampered by disagreements between the Maoists and their rivals.
Members of parliament voted on May 31 to extend its term to give them time to complete the constitution and the peace process.