KATHMANDU (AFP) - Lawmakers in Nepal on Saturday failed to elect the country's first president and end weeks of political deadlock following the abolition of the Himalayan monarchy, official television said. No candidate won the 298 votes necessary to become Nepal's first post-royal head of state, Nepal Television reported after a vote in the country's constitutional assembly. The leading candidate, Ram Baran Yadav, got 294 votes, the channel reported. The hung result further delays efforts by former rebel Maoists, who hold the most assembly seats but not a majority, to form Nepal's first republican government. Earlier, lawmakers for the country's first elected head of state following the abolition of its Hindu monarchy. The leader of the former rebels, Prachanda, told reporters he was sure his party's choice would be the country's new head of state, with an announcement expected later Saturday. The Maoists are backing die-hard republican Ramraja Prasad Singh, arrested two decades ago for throwing small bombs at parliament and the palace as part of an anti-royal protest. The country has been stuck in political limbo after a landmark meeting of a newly-elected constitutional assembly sacked unpopular king Gyanendra and abolished the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy on May 28. Interim prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala has since resigned, but with no one in power to accept his resignation, he has lingered on as a weak caretaker. The Maoists - who dominate but do not have a majority in the 601-member assembly - have been unable to muster enough support from two other parties to form a new government. After failing to agree on who should become president, the three main parties each put forward a candidate. Voting by 594 lawmakers took place Saturday by secret ballot, with a simple majority of 298 needed to win. The three men in the running are all ethnic Mahadhesis who hail from the troubled lowland area bordering India known as the Terai, where demands for an autonomous federal state have seen frequent deadly clashes. Political analysts have tipped Singh, 73, as the favourite to win - but that is subject to the parties avoiding more last-minute wrangling. No matter who emerges victorious, the new head of state will be 'President Ram', since all three candidates share the name of the most revered incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The new president will immediately take over some of the ceremonial duties previously performed by ousted king Gyanendra. In the past seven weeks, as arguing continued over the largely symbolic presidential post, Nepal has been largely ungoverned. The Nepali fiscal year ended on July 15 without a new budget, although the assembly did approve a supplementary spending bill. The country has lurched from strike to strike, over fuel prices, wages and working conditions. But once a president is in place, that will pave the way for the formation of a government headed by a prime minister, most likely Prachanda. "The president will accept the resignation of the (interim) prime minister and then the Maoists can form a government," said Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of the Nepali-language news weekly Samay.