The elections season has commenced in Nepal with local level polls slated for May 13 in a single phase. These will be followed by provincial council and house of representatives’ elections to be held by end of the year.
No single party is expected to get a majority in the elections, but a coalition of parties could turn the tables as was seen during the 2017 polls when the left parties joined together after the local elections to win a majority in the subsequent polls while the Nepali Congress was sidelined.
Such a situation may also arise given volatility of Nepali politics dictated by the recent discussions and debates over Millennium Challenge Corporation [MCC].
The present coalition of Nepali Congress,Maoist Centre and CPN (Unified Socialist) is presently split over tabling the MCC for ratification in the House of Representatives.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s key coalition partner, the Maoist Centre, is strongly opposed to tabling of the MCC. “Our position is clear and it is not going to change,” a senior leader of the party was reported by the Kantipur Post.
The CPN Unified Socialist has some resistance but may allow tabling of the MCC compact. This is expected to lead to a split in the coalition.
Prime Minister Deuba could well muster support of the main opposition party the CPN UML which will support the MCC as well as the Deuba government from outside, but for that the coalition will have to be split.
“Our party has a clear position. Until the alliance remains, there is no chance of cooperation,” Oli told Deuba, according to a leader of the CPN UML quoted by the Kantipur Post. “If you [Deuba] terminate your partnership with your partners, then UML will lend its support in lifting House obstructions, ratifying the MCC compact and reaching a power-sharing deal with the Nepali Congress,” he is said to have reported.
CPN UML is thus not for rejecting the MCC but would support the motion only if the coalition is dissolved but for that the MCC will have to be sacrificed.
Thus the primary dilemma before Prime Minister Deuba is to table the MCC while keeping the coalition intact which for present appears an impossible task.
However given the polls in the offing it is obvious that maintaining the alliance will give the Nepali Congress a chance to emerge as the single largest party as per calculations made within the party.
On the other hand the United States has claimed that there is no time line pressure for passage of the MCC. US Embassy in Kathmandu clarified that none of the US officials were engaged in issuing any threat whatsoever to Nepali leaders to accept the MCC grant.
US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry said that whether Nepal ratifies the MCC agreement is a decision for Nepal to make as a sovereign democratic nation and the US government respects Nepal's sovereign decision. "We have not threatened Nepali leaders – that is false. But we are asking Nepal to follow through on its commitments," said Ambassador Berry. "Whether the Nepali leaders ratify MCC is a decision for Nepal to make, as a sovereign democratic nation, and Nepal's decision alone."
The US Embassy is also concerned over disinformation and propaganda. “Disinformation and propaganda have had serious consequences throughout history. State-led disinformation and propaganda have threatened democracies, inflamed wars, and provoked violence,” the US embassy Nepal wrote on Facebook on February 13. “It has fomented distrust of facts, science, and credible journalism.”