The revision of the Ikh Khural Election Law has been one of the vexing political issues in recent years.
The July 1st riot in 2008, which occurred after the Ikh Khural election and took the lives of five innocent people and injured hundreds, made the issue more urgent. The current session of the Ikh Khural is expected to make some vital changes, but party rivalries and MPs’ self-interests are posing a major constraint.
According to the Constitution of Mongolia, the Ikh Khural must not amend the Ikh Khural Election Law within six months before the upcoming election, so time is running out now for the summer 2012 election.
This may lead to a very similar situation as we saw in 2007 when the Ikh Khural waited until the last moment to amend the Election Law and chose the majoritarian multiple members system even though politicians had shown a notable degree of consensus over changing the majoritarian election system by introducing proportional-representation methods.
If you remember, it was one of the five pririorities of the government identified by S. Bayar, who was appointed as PM in November, 2007. Leading members of the Democratic Party, such as E. Bat-Uul, were active proponents for proportional-representative system at that time. Small political parties, such as the Civil Will Party, and newly formed “citizens’ movement” parties were apparently desperate and supported the change.
On December 4, 2007, seven MPs from four different parties submitted a draft Election Law to the Ikh Khural. The draft law proposed a proportional-representation system with a single electoral district, a list of party and independent candidates, and a five percent minimum threshold. But the change didn’t happen.
As the election was approaching, the two dominant political parties in Mongolia didn’t dare to change the rules of the game. Especially Democratic Party leaders became reluctant to introduce the proportional-representation system because they seemed to see S. Bayar’s MPRP as the potential winner if the upcoming election was held under the new system. At the same time, international donors and domestic civil society were pushing the MPRP and DP toward the adoption of the proportianal-representation system.
UNDP had, for example, a national program for assisting Mongolia to improve the electoral legislation and its major part was the re-examination of the existing election system. A number of conferences and national symposiums on election law change, comparative studies, study tours by MPs, and lectures by foreign experts had been organized, and there was much public expectation for positive change. However, two political parties stuck to the majoritarian system and made some unexpected changes at the last moment, such as removing the 30 percent gender quota provision from the election law. Ultimatelly, political party elites’ interests prevailed.
The majoritarian election system has consolidated two major political parties in Mongolia since 1992 (Duverger’s Law). Conversely, we also see how the parties have defined the election systems (Duverger’s Law Upside Down). Now, for example, the People’s Party of Mongolia (MPP), the former MPRP, is fighting to stick to the current majoritarian system.
Although there are on-going negotiations between the People’s Party and the Democratic party over the ratio of the Ikh Khural seats that would be decided by the majoritarian and proportional-representation systems, the final decision is going to depend on MPs and party leaders’ interests and strategies.
The People’s Party faces a strong challenge from its former chairman and the ex-president of Mongolia, N. Enkhbayar, who managed to register a new political party by usurping an 80-years old brand name – MPRP. The proportional-representation system also increases risks for less well-known MPs at the national level and MPs representing rural ridings.
The latest ratio between proportional and majoritarian election systems proposed by the People’s Party is 28:48. The negotiation and final decisions on the election system will shape some crucial issues, such as the participation of Mongolian citizens living overseas, the gender quota of party candidates, and the alteration of electoral districts. Today, the Mongolian public expects fairness, inclusion, and legality from elections, and MPs and political party leaders are obliged to answer.