Party insiders said that the Unified Socialists were forced to vote in favour of the compact after Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba explored the possibility of forming an alliance with the UML to mobilise support for the project.
KP Oli of the opposition UML for his part had maintained that he would support the MCC only if the NC left the coalition, a demand that was critical for elections this year.
The interpretative declaration is meant to assuage the Maoists and Unified Socialists concerns about articles included in the Compact, which leaders of the two parties had repeatedly said is against Nepal’s national interest, and superseded Nepal’s laws, sovereignty, and the Constitution.
The interpretative deceleration addresses concerns of the Communists and was drafted by Thapa and will be appended to the ratification. It states that Nepal does not consider itself to be bound by any strategic, military or security alliance of the US, including its Indo-Pacific Strategy, and that Nepal is not obliged to comply with existing or future US laws or policies for any purpose other than the use of grants.
The declaration also states that project related activities will be regulated by the laws of Nepal, and that Nepal will own all intellectual, movable and immovable property created under the Compact.
The declaration stipulates all activities and funds of Nepal be audited by Nepal’s Auditor General. Another point states that Nepal can reject the grant amount by giving thirty days prior written notice if Nepal’s laws are violated.
But even as the declaration seems to have kept the governing coalition intact and ratified the MCC, experts have questioned the validity of such a document.
“One country does not have the sole right to make explanatory comments on an agreement that was formed between two countries, and doing so could be seen as a coercion,” says constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari. “It would have been better to pass a resolution.”
Others have called the document redundant, and that it is merely a face-saving exercise for the Maoists and Unified Socialist leadership.
“Nepal’s political leaders spread misconceptions about the MCC among the public in the past to such a degree, and have had to backtrack now,” former Supreme Court Justice Girish Chandra Lal told Himalkhabar, “Now, they find themselves in a position of having to save face in front of their party workers.”
The much delayed infrastructure grant project was presented in Parliament members for deliberation over the Compact in the afternoon, and a verbal vote was conducted late on Sunday night.
Discussions regarding the project took place even as the main opposition UML stood in protest in front of the rostrum upholding their demand that Unified Socialist MPs be expelled, having gotten up from their seats as soon as Speaker Agni Sapkota began his opening remarks while anti-MCC protesters clashed with police outside Parliament.