By Julian Dierkes
It seems that the revisions to the electoral law yesterday brought three main changes:
- A switch to mixed member proportional representation
- Enfranchisement of Mongolians living abroad
- 20% of all candidates have to be women
While the parliamentary election (June 20 or 27) is still far off and all speculation is just that, speculation, there are some scenarios what these changes might mean for the election.
Throughout the debates about changes to the electoral law, the Democratic Party (DP, party of president Elbegdorj) has pushed for more proportional representation while the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP, party of prime minister Batbold) has resisted this push.
The conventional wisdom has been that the MPP fears that its organizational strength in the countryside will be challenged by the orthodox (in name) re-founding of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party under former president Enkhbayar, as well as by the electoral strength of the DP in areas that the MP has dominated through majoritarian elections.
I have personally not been entirely convinced by this point of view, but it is difficult to tell from abroad whether the MPP is loosing support in the countryside and how dominant the DP may be in Ulaanbaatar.
I would note, however, that it is still unclear what impact the revisions of the electoral system will have on the overrepresentation of rural voters in the Ikh Khural as that will depend on the boundaries that are drawn for the 48 constituencies.
Clearly, the Civil Will Green Party stands to win from the changes in the electoral system. Its current MPs, Enkhbat and Oyun, may have a good chance at direct re-election leaving some room for other candidates to be elected via proportional representation on a party list. Their party may also be set up best for the women’s quota, not only because of Oyun’s status as one of only three female MPs, but their cultivation of professional voters where competent female candidates may well garner a lot of favour.
Given the growth of the Mongolian diaspora (not, the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, but rather Mongolians living abroad), there has been a strong push to allow these Mongolians to vote. Some are looking to Mongolians educated abroad as a source for the modernization of Mongolia and as a source of the human resources necessary to turn mineral wealth into a sustainable and equitable economy.
There may also be a sense that Mongolians abroad may be less susceptible to populist arguments and resource nationalism on the basis of their education and familiarity with developed economies, at least when these Mongolians reside in OECD countries.
Will Mongolians abroad vote less on patronage considerations and more on ideological bases or policy profiles? Certainly an attractive prospect, but not an obvious development either.
If there is a significant impact of the vote from abroad it may show in campaign styles already, but until the campaign gets going, I don’t see Mongolians abroad as an obvious constituency for either the MPP or the DP, but perhaps for the Civil Will Green Party.
There are currently three female MPs. Obviously, the major parties will have some soul-searching and candidate-identification to do before they will be ready to field 20% female candidates. While there is no shortage of competent women per se, intra-party dynamics may unfold in an interesting way when some incumbents will have to be dismissed by the large parties as candidates in order to make room for female candidates.
Mongolia is no exception to the rule that incumbents have an advantage in most electoral systems. Of the revisions in the electoral law, the women’s quota may post the greatest obstacle to incumbents. By contrast, mixed member proportional representation may be an opportunity for incumbents to run a local campaign as well as lobbying their parties for a high placement on party lists.
If we assume that the 48 direct seats are distributed roughly evenly between the DP and the MPP with up to 8 seats going to other parties, that would suggest 20 seats elected directly for the MPP and DP. If they are likely to concentrate something like 3/4 of the votes through proportional representation, that would suggest around 10 seats to the two large parties through PR. Assuming that most direct candidates are also placed highly on party lists for PR (and that such a double-candidacy is allowed by the electoral law), that would suggest that the first 30 candidates on the large parties’ list may have a reasonably good chance at being elected.
Let the intra-party jockeying for candidates and party lists begin!
I would very much welcome discussion on my speculation.