It does seem like (political) things in Mongolia have been getting more exciting over the past week. Clearly this is linked to the proximity of the beginning of the election campaign.
By the changes to the electoral law that were enacted in December, the parliamentary election is due to be held on June 20 or 27. That would suggest a beginning of the official campaign on May 31 or June 6. However, some of the changes initiated by the changes to the electoral law are still under judicial review. Also, the goal to hold local elections on the same day as national elections (primarily to reduce administrative costs significantly) is threatened by inter-party squabbling. If any of the changes to the electoral law are struck down, by default the election would be run under the previous election system. Recall that this was a bit of a mess of multi-member, multi-vote districts that proved to be difficult to count and also a challenged for voters and parties to wrap their head around.
While the exact nature of the campaign and election procedures remains to be determined, a number of political events suggest that the atmosphere is heating up a bit.
Late last week, frm. prime minister, speaker of the Ikh Khural, and president Enkhbayar was arrested for failing to appear before an inquiry of the Anti-Corruption Agency. Recall that he has been the first very prominent politician to appear in the trial of four senior police officers for the July 1 (2008) riots that followed closely on the last parliamentary election. Recall also that Enkhbayar lost the 2009 presidential election to current incumbent Elbegdorj, but Enkhbayar certainly felt like he was abandoned by his then-party, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, since re-named Mongolian People’s Party by Prime Minister Batbold, but re-formed as a splinter party with its original name by Enkhbayar. In his trial appearance and other public statements, Enkhbayar is increasingly slinging mud in all directions, focused on July 1, corruption, and some of his political rivals. Now, he’s being detained and looks to remain in detention for the remainder of the week at least.
Some protests have occurred regarding his detention, but the numbers of people involved in these protests continues to be relatively low.
As if domestic politics wasn’t exciting enough, the Mineral Resources Authority (MRAM) held a press conference announcing the suspension of South Gobi Resources’ mining license. It had been surprisingly quiet after the announcement of a takeover of South Gobi by Chinese aluminum giant CHALCO, so perhaps this reaction was to be expected. Predictably, this press conference sent various share prices tumbling and produced angry statements from various foreign investors.