KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepals parliament failed Tuesday in its 13th bid to elect a new prime minister, meaning the impoverished Himalayan nation has been without a functioning government for almost four months. Nepal has been stuck in a series of futile elections, with no candidate able to secure the necessary absolute majority, since caretaker prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned from his post on June 30. He stepped down under intense pressure from the opposition Maoist party, who have been calling for a consensus government. At Tuesdays vote Ram Chandra Poudel, the sole candidate and leader of the Nepali Congress, the second largest party, secured 98 votes, the speaker of the house announced. The total was far short of the absolute majority in the 601-member Constituent Assembly needed to form a government. Most parliamentarians abstained from the vote. The current deadlock has hampered progress in the long-running peace process and delayed much-needed government spending by stalling the annual budget. Maoist leader Pushpa Kama Dahal, known as Prachanda, meaning the fierce one, was the front-runner in earlier votes, but withdrew before the eighth poll to pave the way for fresh talks on forming a national consensus government. The speaker of the house has said that the parliament will have to keep repeating the election unless the only candidate, Poudel, withdraws. The next vote will be held on October 29.