Nepal's Maoists announced Tuesday they will not form the country's first post-royal government after the defeat of their candidate for president, plunging the country into a new political crisis.
The former rebels' decision, seen as a blow to Nepal's peace process, came one day after rival parties in a constitutional assembly ganged up against the Maoists to elect a president allied to the main centrist party.
"The party's central committee meeting has decided not to form the government under our leadership," Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told AFP.
Elections to the assembly in April gave the Maoists the largest single bloc of seats, but not an outright majority. The Maoists had insisted their choice of president should be elected and they form a new government.
But a vote on Monday saw Ram Baran Yadav from the Nepali Congress party -- the Maoists' main rival -- anointed the country's first president.
"After the presidential election, it is certain that we do not have a majority. So we do not have any basis to form the next government," said Mahara.
He added, however, that the "door to talks with other parties is still open."
The Maoists' continued involvement in mainstream politics is seen as crucial to the survival of Nepal's peace process, which ended a decade-long rebel uprising that killed at least 13,000 people dead.
If the Maoists do opt out of forming a government, it is also unclear if the other parties could pull together their own alliance and pull Nepal out of the political vacuum that followed the abolition of the monarchy on May 28.