Although UML candidate Jhalanath Khanal has withdrawn from the PM elections, the prospect of a national consensus government has not dissipated. The next election to be contested between Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Ram Chandra Poudel has improved the possibility of consensus. The fact that more than a simple majority would havesupported Khanal for the sake of building consensus is indicative of this.
After forcing Madhav Kumar Nepal to resign despite his majority, it was not morally justifiable for another candidate from the same party to form a majority government. But it was likely that another UML-led government would have been more effective, as it had the support of the Maoists. The UML now has the opportunity to push for a new consensus by supporting another party.
We cannot hope for a new prime minister soon because of the timing of the second round. Unless there is a miracle, the Maoists or the NC will not be able to garner a majority in this time, as the parties need to forge new alliances. But the parties can reconsider the prospect of a consensus government.
However, the Wednesday election has not bridged the rift between the two factions of the UML, but made it worse. The UML is still the decisive factor, but it will be as hard for it to support the NC for a majority government as it will be for the four Madhesi parties to support the Maoists.
The UML will not have a direct role in the second round race, and its own condition for a two-thirds majority will keep hindering government formation. There is also no possibility for the UML to accept a majority government now. UML's non-participation will keep prolonging the process of elections, but for how long?
As the country struggles to form a new government, the internal divide between the UML will get worse. So the UML should either vote in favour of a majority government or make the necessary efforts to push the Maoists or the NC to lead a national unity government. If two thirds is what the UML wants, it should work for consensus amidst the ongoing elections. Only after the UML is out of the leadership race can it be directed by principles and a new ground for consensus built.