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OPINION

New Deal On MCC, CJ Impeachment



New Deal On MCC, CJ Impeachment

Narayan Upadhyay

With ruling coalition partners forging new consensus, many expect the alliance will table and endorse the much-hyped American grant by the parliament. The unexpected turn of events 'compelled' the ruling allies to reach an understanding of putting the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Nepal Compact in parliament for discussion and endorsement in due course.

An albatross around the neck of the coalition partners, the MCC compact proved to be a hard nut to crack for the ruling partners. The endorsement of the grant will give much-needed relief to them. Earlier, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who wanted to see the compact endorsed, tried to push the compact through parliament but the two key allies of the ruling coalition, the CPN-Maoist Centre and CPN-Unified-Socialist refused to pass the US grant in its current form.

Censure motion
However, the new situation that emerged in the country's judiciary caused the two coalition partners to seek the support of the Prime Minister and his party for registering the impeachment proposal against the Chief Justice in the House of Representatives (HoR). As things have turned out, Prime Minister Deuba and his party Nepali Congress joined hands with them in registering the censure motion. As per the new understanding, two communist parties would assist in the tabling and approving of the MCC compact in parliament, provided Deuba's party helped them register the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice.

Following the new consensus among key allies that saw the impeachment proposal registered in parliament, many backers of the US grant believed the American grant would have smooth sailing in the parliament as a simple majority of parliamentarians present in the House for voting can approve it. The two key allies will not create any obstacles in its approval.

After the US government mounted its pressure for the MCC compact's approval within the deadline, February 28, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba made efforts to table the grant in the HoR to discuss the compact. However, the PM faced roadblocks after the two key partners kept on negating his proposal, citing that they could not approve the compact in its present shape.

He hastened his attempt to table the US grant in the parliament after US Assistant Minister Donald Lu, who looks after South Asian affairs, denied extending the deadline further. What irked many in our country is - Lu telling our leaders that the US would consider altering its present Nepal policy if the Nepali side failed to accept the grant. Lu's warning to Nepal acted as a catalyst to polarise views on the compact.
The compact endorsement issue even threatened the alliance's fabric after two top leaders, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, cited they would not care about the alliance's disintegration but could not go ahead with the compact. They asked for amendments to what they termed controversial points included in the MCC dossier, which the US side has refused to perform.

Though a section of politicians, the business community, media persons and others urged the Nepali side to get the compact endorsed and MCC projects implemented at the earliest, approving the US $500 million grant proved to be tricky matter for our politicians. The main reason for this tortuous situation is the divided opinion regarding some points in the compact, which, the compact's detractors believe, will prohibit the Nepali side from having its say in the implementation of projects under the compact.

However, with an urgency to bring forth the impeachment proposal against Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, the two major allies consented to move the MCC compact through the House. As some latest reports suggest, Deuba, Prachanda and Nepal have explored all avenues to keep the coalition afloat, even when the compact is brought before the House. While the House readies itself for the compact's endorsement vote, the two parties - the CPN-Maoist Centre and CPN-Unified-Socialist - can refrain from voting. The House can pass the agreement by following the Constitution's Article 279 (2), which states that the House can pass the compact through a simple majority of the parliamentarians present in the House during the vote.

The coalition's latest move against Rana came after key allies alleged that CJ hobnobbed with the opposition leader, KP Sharma Oli, and acted as per his advice. Rana was earlier barred from performing his day-to-day work after Supreme Court justices and lawyers protested against him. Although the impeachment motion in the House has now sent CJ Rana to an automatic suspension, merely registering the impeachment motion will not suffice to impeach the CJ. The alliance requires a two-thirds majority in the House to implicate the chief of the country's judiciary, a constitutional body. At present, the ruling alliance has been lacking this number in parliament.

While implicating the CJ, the alliance alleged CJ Rana of engaging in corrupt practices and sought his share of ministerial and other government appointments that only defiled the judiciary. Earlier, the Nepal Bar Association and its member lawyers visited all leaders of major political parties urging them to impeach the CJ. The ruling parties cited 21 points against Rana while registering a censure proposal.

Smooth sailing
With the new political developments, the coalition will remain intact. Despite harbouring disparate views on the MCC compact, PM Deuba, Prachanda and Nepal are on the same page when it comes to keeping the coalition intact. It may well serve to remember that the five-party coalition was formed after Oli had unleashed blows to the constitution and democratic values. The allies are aware that any break in the current alliance would benefit their archrival, the UML, and its chair.

With the ruling coalition agreeing to tackle emerging challenges collectively, they will have smooth sailing until the next general election or, maybe, beyond the polls. The new understanding that was reached in the MCC Nepal Compact and the impeachment proposal indicates this very fact.

(Upadhyay is Managing Editor of The Rising Nepal. nara.upadhyay@gmail.com)